“There’s Something Happening Here…”

I just saw the new movie “20th Century Women” yesterday on a rainy Sunday afternoon.  It made me laugh and it made me cry.  When the credits were rolling at the end, I turned to Stephen and said “Wow, this was definitely a women empowering weekend!”

Obviously, I am referring to the Women’s March on Washington.  I am proud to say that I was there!  There has never been, and most likely will never be another experience like that in our lifetime.  All the images in the media could not even begin to depict the feelings and emotions that were present in our nation’s capital on Saturday.

Here is a behind-the-scenes timeline of this historic event from just one 61 year-old woman’s perspective:

November 19th, 2016

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A Women’s March in Washington was announced and I immediately signed up for the RALLY bus.   My anger regarding the new administration fueled my desire to do something, since I constantly wanted to cry, scream, and yell.  I was so crushed with the outcome of November 8th, I needed to speak up;  I had no choice.  (I will secretly admit that I had only 2 concerns – security and the bathroom situation.) 

Here was an opportunity to protest and march! 

January 20th, 2017.  Night before:

Pack Metro card, some cash, snacks, wipes, tissues, and water.  Shower. Set alarm on phone for 4:30 am.  (Side note: I have an internal alarm clock, but just in case…)

January 21st, 2017.

5:15 AM:

Stephen drove me to the Rally bus drop off point where I searched for my marching partner and very dear friend Nancy.  We were standing in the darkness wearing big smiles and displaying nervous excitement.  There were about 15 buses lined up and we chose Bus #306 and climbed aboard.  We were off to Washington, D.C.!  We secured our seats and for the next 3 hours we chatted and snacked and caught up on our ‘girl talk’.

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9:00 AM

The bus pulled into to RFK Stadium Arena and we were already in awe over the number of buses and throngs of women that were huddling in the parking lot.  We didn’t have a ‘bus captain’ or a group leader, so we were on our own to navigate the day.  Logic told us to follow the crowd and hopefully it would direct us to the Metro station. Thanks to Nancy, she thought to look up at the sign where #306 was parked and saw that we were  parked in Lot 7b. PHEW!  We started to walk  and soon discovered that half the crowd was walking straight to the event, and the other half was going to the Metro.  We had our Metro cards, so we were taking the Metro!

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At this point, it felt like a field trip.  We hopped on the Metro at the Stadium/Armory station and 4 stops later, we departed at Capital South.  When we ascended the escalator, I think our jaws dropped to the ground.  These weren’t just a bunch of women wearing funny pink hats, this was a breathtaking scene.  I couldn’t speak.  We both had tears in our eyes and goosebumps all over…overwhelmed.

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10:00 AM

Nancy and I decided early on that we would not let each other go, for fear of being separated and swallowed up in the crowd. So there we were, arm in arm, carrying our signs and walking towards the stage.  Just by random luck, we parked ourselves in a spot that would be similar to being backstage at a show.  We were facing the VIP tent where the speakers and ‘celebrities’ walked to and from the stage.  We had no idea who would be there – other than Gloria Steinem.  In fact, we weren’t there to spot celebrities or anything Hollywood; we were there on a very serious mission. The speeches had started and within minutes we were involved with our circle of women sharing our stories,  grumbling about congress, where we travelled from and of course discussed our disdain for the newly elected commander in chief. We bonded. We laughed. We shared our snacks.  We chanted and chanted and chanted.  Every few minutes someone in our crowd would say “Oh look, there’s Cher! Or Katie Couric, or Chaz Bono, or Michael Moore, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae, Gloria Steinem, Debi Mazar, Angela Davis, Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson, Emma Watson, America Ferrera, Cory Booker, Cecile Richards, Jesse Jackson, and the list went on….

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The speeches also went on, and on, and on.  Unfortunately we could not hear them all, or see the actual speakers.  Of course there were no ‘big’ screens because there were no corporate sponsors. The speeches were supposed to end at 1:00 but actually ended at 2:30.  (Note: I read that there were 44 speakers!)  My favorites were Michael Moore who was incredibly inspiring by giving us the blueprint for what we NEED to do now, and then Alicia Keys led the crowd in a chant before performing a brief version of “Girl on Fire’ with the lyrics changed to “These girls are on Fire”.  By 1:15, we had all been standing on our feet for many hours AND unable to move six inches in any direction – that’s how squished our crowd was!  The chants turned into “March March March”!

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2:30 PM

We were instructed that it was time to march.  We could finally move!  First order of business is kind of obvious – where are the bathrooms?  (Note: Bus restroom was out of order).  Now, I am going to disclose something very personal – I have a case of ‘public bathroom phobia’ and have never used a ‘porta’ potty. Ever.  Well my friends, I guess there’s a first time for everything and I’m just going to say this:  Due to the inauguration the day before, these porta-john things were there for 2 days.  This was the most disgusting and grossest thing I ever saw.  Ok, I said it.  That was it.  First time. Last time. I was determined to put a mental lock on my bladder until I was home.

Nancy and I now felt rejuvenated and revitalized.  The March had begun and it was the most fun part of the day.  Once again, we were chanting with our friends, our sisters and our fellow protesters.  “Hey hey ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go”  and “Tell me what democracy (or America) looks like!  THIS is what democracy (or America) looks like!”

We were in the middle of the crowd feeling empowered and important.  At one point, several police vehicles drove down the street and the crowds waved and cheered. Other than that, we did not see any security throughout the whole day.

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3:30 PM

I spotted a Metro station and suggested that we should probably head back to the bus area.  Both of our cell phones had no power and we had been relying heavily on crowd power to navigate the city.  The line was about a mile long and we took our place.   Oops, wrong station.  We were advised by someone in an orange vest to go to another station (L’enfant Plaza) which would be closer to our dear Bus #306. So……we bolt out of line and start to walk furiously to the other station.  Slight problem – the main streets were cordoned off (due to the unanticipated HUGE crowds 🙂 and we had to walk all the way around the area in the opposite direction.  We were so energized at this point, we would have walked to the moon.  On our route, Nancy befriended a nice gentleman recently retired from the army who not only told us he was on his way to our L’enfant Plaza Metro station, but lent us his portable cell phone charger for a quick boost.  Picture this – Nancy and I were now toggled together by a battery pack walking briskly through the streets covered with signs and litter.  The one image that made us laugh on our way back were the clever ‘signs’ now adhered to the ‘porta-johns’.  (Dump trump, Pee & Putin, Trump’s Golden Showers, and many more!)  When we arrived to the station, we once again took our place at the end of the line and reveled in the events of the day. 

4:30 PM

This was my least favorite part of the day.  (Well, other than you-know-what.)  The Metro was so packed that there wasn’t an inch of room on the first one that came in to the station.  When the next one came in, the doors opened and there was a lot of pushing and shoving.  I almost fell, but there was no space to fall!  We were like sardines and it was awful.  At this point, our adrenalin was waning and fatigue was setting in.  OK, we were tired!  However, once we stepped onto the platform and headed up the escalator, that one last look of the sea of women behind us in their funny pink hats chanting one last time, revitalized us and was justification for our mission.

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6:30 PM

We located Lot 7b (thank you Nancy!) and reunited with our Philly bus-mates. We shared our cheers and stories.  Wine and leftover snacks were offered and then a quietness settled in as the bus lights were turned off and it pulled out of the parking lot.  Nancy was out like a light, and I sat there on Bus #306 with my eyes closed and felt the day wash over me like a warm blanket.

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An Epiphany!

I had an epiphany this week.  

I was walking at a very brisk pace to the art studio on Friday and was enjoying the healthy exercise.  Winter has seriously arrived after a bunch of false starts, and I was trying to stay warm.  The sun was shining, my nose was running like a faucet and my scarf was wound around my face like a tourniquet.  I was navigating the sidewalk very cautiously to avoid the sporadic ice patches, as I am ridiculously petrified of falling on the ice (I smacked my head on an unseen ice patch on 22nd Street last winter.  Ouch.)  When I was about 3 miles into my walk, I reached into my bag to grab my phone and…it was no where in reach.  I frantically moved my hand around in the deep vortex of my bag and touched every tissue, pair of glasses, cases, wallet, and pens about 10 times before I realized I LEFT MY PHONE AT HOME!  I panicked for about a minute and all these thoughts ran through my brain. What if I fell and needed to call Stephen to pick me up? What if I need to check my email in the next 8 hours?  What if I have to capture the gorgeous colors in the sky on my camera phone?  What if I have to text a friend to say hello?  What if I need to take a picture of my painting, or my lunch? Or, the worst case scenario – what if someone is desperately trying to reach me?  After that crazy moment of fear, I realized there was no sane reason to freak out.

And then…just like that, I felt liberated.  It was such an ‘aha! ‘ moment.  I was free and anonymous.  I was so unencumbered!  It was the most amazing feeling. I set up my easel and paints and got into my painting ‘zone’ with absolutely zero distractions.  I escaped into my canvas and embraced the quietude.  The only peripheral sounds in the studio were street noises and the sound of my paintbrush sweeping across my canvas.  After an hour or so, a friend popped in to say hello and I asked to borrow his phone to check in with Stephen to tell him that I left my phone at home.  It was just so unlike me to be this irresponsible, so I felt compelled to report my crime and put him on notice.  You just never know.

Well, this is the part of the story where the consequences come to play.  I had a 2:00 ‘date’ to meet my daughter for coffee at the La Colombe location across from the Liberty Bell.  After I cleaned up my painting area, I decided to get there early, in lieu of being phoneless. I reached the cafe very early and sat outside directly in front of the door.  It was a great people watching spot and I was so thrilled to just space out and stare at the scenery and not my damn phone screen!  A man rode his bicycle up to the door and asked me, in a very proper beautiful British accent, “would you mind if I park my bike here?”.  Uh…”Of course, I’ll keep an eye on it for you”.  2:00 passed, and my daughter was nowhere in sight.  I ducked into the cafe and she wasn’t inside.  At about 2:12, bicycle man came out and I figured since he trusted me with his fancy bicycle, he would be okay with my request to borrow his iphone 7 for a minute.  I made my call and got her voicemail.  Of course she didn’t pick up – she didn’t recognize the number, and I didn’t even think to text her.  I waited until 2:30 and left.  I was a little annoyed, but hey, she couldn’t reach me.  Maybe something came up.  My initial feeling of freedom now felt like a heavy blanket of inconvenient annoyance. 

The minute I entered my apartment, I made a mad dash for my phone – before I even took off my coat.  My daughter had texted me and called 7 times.  She was in such a worried frame of mind that she called the studio to see if I ever showed up!  “Mom, where are you” was her sad little message.  She called my husband, cried a little and couldn’t get a grip on why I did not show up for our coffee date.  Wait – is this a tiny bit of payback for all those teenage years of staying out late and not knowing where she was?  Just kidding.

Incredibly, we figured out that when I was using the bicycle guy’s phone to call her, she must have walked in the cafe the split second my head was down.  When I walked inside to see if she was there, she must have been blocked by someone.  It was like one of those movie scenes where you say to yourself ‘that stuff never happens in real life’.

 I realize that we need our phones to communicate when necessary.  We don’t need to document every second of our day with pictures of food or check our mail or texts or twitter or snapchat or Instagram or Facebook. I made a promise to change my lifestyle by becoming less addicted to my phone and more addicted to the present moment.  I may even pretend to leave it at home. 🙂

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Since You’ve Been Gone

Dear Dad,

On January 3rd, 1922, the world was blessed with a wonderful gift.  And today, January 3rd, 2017, you would have celebrated your 95th birthday.  So much has happened in the past 25 years since you’ve been gone, and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of you.  With each passing day, your words of wisdom and warm smile are embedded in my brain.   

I’m going to give you an overview of what you have missed and I’ll throw in lots of numbers – you loved numbers.  Our family has grown, and our family has decreased.  You now have 11 grandchildren and 5 of them are named in your memory. Your kids live in 4 different states and your grandchildren live in 6 different states.  For the ‘most part’, you would be incredibly proud of everyone. (It’s a long story)  Mom passed away almost 9 years ago after a hard fought battle with cancer, and there have also been a couple of divorces and 1 re-marriage.  

Our country just finished 2 terms with our first black president, and we almost had our 1st woman president. Instead, we are having an inauguration for a reality TV person. It’s a very long story, but I’ll just tell you this – I will be attending a protest march in Washington, D.C. on January 21st.   There is still no peace in the middle east and in fact, the situation has become a lot more complicated. (another long story).

You would not recognize Philly, Dad.  The street where your store was located is now crowded with hip boutiques and award winning restaurants.  It’s not the center city that you knew!

Technology has exploded and you would not even know what I’m talking about if I were to say google, laptop, kindle, text, email, snapchat, twitter, instagram, Facebook, Linkedin.  These are all real words that are an integral part of our daily lives.  If  you were walking down the street, you would see everyone talking on their phone (very slim little rectangles) or listening to music with earbuds.  It would probably look like a different planet.

It’s been an exciting last quarter of a century.  I’ve learned from you to enjoy each day and to deal with challenges as they arise.  To quote you exactly:  “Premeditated worrying is not worth the worrying”.  Thanks for that, Dad.

You visit me in my dreams and they feel so incredibly real.  I say to you, “Thank goodness you are really here!” and then I hug you and often wake up with tears on my pillow.

I miss your hugs, your incredibly dry sense of humor, your soft spoken advice, your gentle nature, your kindness, your creativeness, your handsome face, and your sweet personality.  I will continue to miss you and would do anything to hear you laugh, just one more time.

Happy Birthday Daddy.

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Intentionally Speaking.

I began my yoga class the other day in a ‘heart bench’ position.  It’s basically a relaxing pose where you are lying down with yoga blocks placed strategically under your back. Your shoulders are pushed back and your heart is opened up so that you are in a position to feel acceptance.  With eyes closed, your mind settles into your practice on the mat.  It’s a very introspective quiet time.  When we were instructed to readjust and sit up, I spotted a little piece of lined paper and a pen on the corner of my mat!  I got so excited and my mind was going a hundred miles an hour trying to guess what we would be doing with this pen and paper.  Are we going to play a game? Do a drawing? Oh right, we’re in yoga class I reminded myself. Amanda asked us to write down our intention(s), as opposed to always saying them silently to ourselves.  Today we were going to  ‘get it out of our head’.  I loved that!  By putting our words in writing, we would be physically reminded of our personal intention and we were asked to  keep it in front of us on our mat, or fold it up for privacy purposes.  It becomes real.

As a compulsive list maker, this important exercise forced me to consolidate my goals, my dreams, and my intentions in 20 seconds, or less.  Talk about pressure! Stress!  I spend countless hours every day thinking about my ‘journey’.  I have so many goals and dreams; this forced me to spit them out in a hurry.   It’s no coincidence that tomorrow marks the first day of the new year and perfect timing for me to create my resolutions.

I took a deep breath and scribbled the following words: “Stay in the moment, patience, push the envelope, grow”.   In the few seconds that it took to have these words spill out of my head, I was able to sum up my goals for 2017.

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STAY IN THE MOMENT:  This is by far, my biggest challenge. This is my constant reminder to savor each moment, no matter where I am…on the mat, in the studio, in a museum, watching a movie, reading a book, walking the trail, enjoying a meal, laughing with friends, traveling with my husband.  Be present.

PATIENCE: This is a tough one too.  I’m working on it.  I know that life has a way of serving us some major setbacks and frustrations, and my secret to gaining patience is simple.  When something ‘sets me off’,  I stop and take a few minutes to breathe, very slowly.  The challenge here is to remember to do this.

PUSH THE ENVELOPE: This intention is the scariest one.  I will step out of my comfort zone,  I will ‘drive off the cliff’, I will not settle, and I will be brave.  I will explore new yoga positions and new painting techniques.  I will go into the studio when I may not be feeling so creative.  I will embrace change!

GROW:  This word is the culmination of all my intentions.

To say good riddance to 2016, I’m inviting you to join me by looking forward to a fresh, new, exciting year by sharing your intention.  What pops into your head immediately?

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Give Me One Day

I need my day of mourning, please.  I don’t want to hear that we must only see the good, stay calm, keep smiling, or share the love.  Please don’t tell me that everything will be fine and we don’t need to move to Canada.  I’ll listen to you tomorrow; right now I need to feel my sadness and sink into my moroseness.  I’m heartbroken.  The mean bully won. (I can’t even write his name).  What was supposed to be the most exciting day in history turned out to be one of the saddest days.  And of course, it’s raining and gloomy today. 

This feeling reminds me of experiencing a death in the family, or receiving tragic news about a loved one.  The difference in this situation is that I know my friends and family feel the same.  I find comfort in knowing I’m not the only person who has a pit in their stomach and a headache that won’t dissipate. 

When I finally dragged my weary body out of bed this morning, I knew that I would not be able to go into the studio to paint.  I’m feeling comatose, disappointed, and shocked. I have to digest this news in private. 

We (as in my friends and family) have been on such a high this past week, this news has been especially tough and almost impossible to comprehend.  Just 2 days ago, I stood in line for 5 hours to stand on the lawn at 5th and Chestnut, sandwiched between Independence Hall and Constitution Center with the Liberty Bell just steps away.  Surrounded by 33,000 people on a beautiful crisp Autumn evening, we came together to celebrate a historical moment.  We cheered, we sang, applauded and bonded.  We cried tears of joy and emotion. We listened to Bon Jovi, Springsteen, Chelsea, Bill, Michelle, President Obama, and of course Hillary.  We proudly displayed our ‘I’m With Her’ buttons and promised to vote for ‘her’.

No more political ads, no more election soundtrack music blaring from MSNBC, no more breaking news stories about tweets and emails and disturbing videos. It’s over.

The people in my world know that I am the eternal optimist and my glass is always half full.  You will be able to count on that again – tomorrow.

My Book Club Story.

In 2010 I noticed a flyer in the mailroom of my building that read something like “Interested in joining a book club?  Call me!”  Since I was looking for a distraction from my everyday work life, I responded immediately and our book group was born. There were only 3 of us:  Amanda – a 27 year old reading specialist, Joyce – a 55 year old retired teacher from Scotland, and me.  We all met for the first time and nervously introduced ourselves and admitted that we were all book club virgins. After establishing what type of books we like to read and how often we would meet, we unanimously agreed that our first book should be the it book at the time which was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.   Great choice for our first book!

Over the next six years Amanda and Joyce moved away, and the group has grown and evolved.  It’s still an intimate group with only 5 women, but the size is comfortable for a lot of in-depth discussions.  We all lead very different lives, come from completely different backgrounds, but have formed close friendships based on our book discussions.  

I’m guessing that our book club is pretty typical of other groups.  We meet every 5-6 weeks and we rotate homes.  At the end of each ‘meeting’, the new book is chosen and revealed by the member who will be hosting the next month.  She also decides what to serve (snacks, appetizers or dinner) and she initiates the discussion.  We agree and we disagree on everything from how much we liked the story to whether the length of the book was appropriate.  We read fiction, historical fiction, biographies, and nonfiction on a rare occasion. We laugh, we drink wine and we gossip about the characters as though we know them intimately.  At the end of our discussion we cast the characters in our pretend movie version.  (Of the 54 books we have read to date, I believe that there have been 7 movies produced based on the books.)

I’ve always loved to read, and I can still remember my favorite book when I was a kid.  (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.)  With all the TV binge watching and movies I see at the theaters and at home, there’s nothing in the world like curling up with a good book.  As I read our book selection, I always try to imagine the conversations that will ensue.   Most of the books we read would not have been my choice if I saw them on the table at Barnes and Noble, but they push me out of my comfort zone – which is a good thing.  Whether or not I am enjoying the book, I am committed to the last page. 

I highly recommend starting or joining a book group if you are not involved in one.  Even if you are not an avid reader or can’t seem to focus on a book long enough without falling asleep, give it a try!  It will be the best gift you can give yourself this year.

P.S. Thank you Pam, Nancy, Cathei and Sheila.  You ladies are awesome!!

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Practice makes Perfect? No, thank you.

Autumn. Fall. Whatever you want to call it –  I LOVE this season!  These past few days, the weather has been teasing us with a cool breeze accompanied by that slight hint of Fall in the air.  Since returning to Philly nine years ago from South Florida, the obvious visuals of the change of seasons never gets old.  This time of year is about transition and progression.

Everything feels like a new beginning.  The intense heat has dissipated (almost) and we can breathe the delicious fresh air.  I welcome the back to school signage, the Jewish New Year, new schedules, falling leaves, jackets, and oh – my birthday.  It’s also a relevant time to work on my personal goals, or as we like to say in yoga terms – our intention.  There has been a message that has been shouting out to me this past week in 3 different places.  I haven’t stopped thinking about it, and maybe this concept will relate to you, too.  It’s all about how we progress on our journey. Once again, my amazing yoga instructor, Amanda Jacobs, gave it a name. “Progression vs. Perfection”

1. Movie:  I saw a new movie this past weekend called “Little Men”.  It was basically a story about best friends and the family drama that interferes with their relationship.  One of the sub plots (not a spoiler alert, I promise) is that one of the boys is preparing his art portfolio for admission to a special arts high school.  He is always ‘one painting shy’ of completion.  His father (played by Greg Kinnear) pointed out to him that he always seems to be almost ready and then explains to him that it will never be perfect.  He was telling his son to accept where his progress was at the moment so that he could move forward. His portfolio is ready and complete.  He was advised to submit with confidence and take the step.  Stages. Progress.

2. Yoga class:  Our theme was to concentrate and breathe through our progression of poses.  Do not strive for immediate perfection (like floating up to the perfect handstand, which by the way is not my goal) but instead, build up to your challenging poses in small steps.  Accept where you are at the moment, so that you can move forward.  Stages. Progress.

3. Book: Stop whatever you are doing and read Amy Schumer’s new book “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo”.   I’m not going to officially review the book, but if you read it, you may laugh harder than you have ever laughed in your entire life.  However, there are some essays that dive into her darkest moments and shared with brutal honesty. When Amy talks about the business of her profession, that same message was relayed within that chapter. It was not just dumb luck that Amy Schumer sold out Madison Square Garden – she worked very, very long hard hours. And months. And years.  Ten years.  It takes practice, practice and more practice.   Along the way, there were lots of rejections and failed performances.  Instead of giving up, she accepted that she needed to improve to progress.  It takes time and perseverance. Stages. Progress.

So, back to this new change of season.  With my anti-climatic 61st birthday approaching, my astrological sign is ‘Virgo’- and yes I am guilty of reading my horoscope on occasion. (My guess is that everyone says that their sign fits their personality traits, but mine really does!)   According to astrology, I am always trying to figure things out and how to improve everything.  I am always analyzing and thinking, with that constant drive to improve and perfect.  With this recent theme of progression, I need to remind myself that perfection should not and will not be the end game, but the reminder to just continue on my journey. As an artist, I will step over the hurdles, embrace the rejections, and work through the frustrations along the way.   It is part of the process.  As Amy Schumer says,  ‘there is always room in this big world for another artist’.

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Rocks & Reflection: A Retrospective Summer

This summer has felt different than any other summer.  Maybe it’s the unconventional and bizarre presidential race that has been the background chatter and prominent topic of every conversation. Maybe it’s the general uneasiness of the news that we read everyday.  Or, maybe the intense heat wave and the extreme weather conditions that brought about tragic events. I can’t put my finger on it, exactly.

However, not everything has been doom and gloom;  there have been plenty of causes for celebration this summer.  Within my world of family and friends, there have been new babies and wedding showers, beach weekends and mountain retreats.  There have been parties and vacations, and museum visits, theatre and art shows.  There have been productive days of painting at the studio and tons of TV shows (The Night Of!) that Stephen and I watched each evening while enjoying our rosé.  Throughout this summer, it has been a time for me to step back and reflect on my new journey. 

Last week I had the pleasure of spending 3 days with my daughter Cara to celebrate her birthday.  We retreated at Woodloch Spa, which is nestled in the Pocono Mountains far enough away from the city life that I love so much.  She reached her 30th milestone birthday on August 25th. (I may have been a little too quick to point out to her that I was 30 when she was born.)  Cara kept saying how she can’t believe that she’s entering her third decade, and I was thinking to myself ‘honey, I’m in my sixth decade!’ How lucky to have most of your life in front of you, and to be able to make any choices that you decide?

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We shared 3 days of stepping back from our busy lives and used the time to remember, reflect and share memories.  We giggled through yoga and our nature walks through the woods.  We stopped to photograph the beautiful fawns and we walked the lotus labyrinth. We meditated and received facials and massages.  We took a watercolor art class, and we shared delicious meals and good wine.  It was a memory of a lifetime and definitely a special gift for both of us to cherish.

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During these past two months, my mind has been swirling with colors, canvases and creations. I needed this time to step back, reflect and navigate my own path.  I feel rejuvenated and refreshed.  With summer winding down, and the sun starting to set a little earlier, it’s a reminder that the change of seasons is just around the corner.

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‘Playing the Edge’ in Life

One of my favorite things about practicing yoga is at the beginning of class when the instructor delivers the message of the day.  As I sit quietly on my mat with my eyes closed, legs crossed and palms faced upwards in the receiving position, I focus on the inspirational  delivery and I immediately personalize the intention.   Amanda’s message this past Sunday morning resonated with me in a striking way.

The theme of the reading was based on a yoga concept called ‘playing the edge’.   In simple terms, I translated it to mean PUSH YOURSELF to the limit. In yoga practice, the ‘edge’ is the place where you are physically stretching your body to it’s limit.  (visualize a rubber-band)  When you get to that edge, you know it.  That’s the point where subtle pain sets in, and if you go past it, you risk injury.  That’s the exact point where I say to myself “Ouch!”

In real life, we all ‘play the edge’.  Everyone faces daily challenges and goals. Some are trivial, some are monumental. I exhaust myself with my constant organizational strategy of achieving my goals.  I have always been an obsessive list maker, which has come in handy.   Making lists are my secret weapon to accomplishing my missions. (Side note: when I had my Nina Designs stationery company in 1978, one of my notepad designs was “My Lists Have Lists”.)   I’m ashamed to think my overall daily to-do list would look something like this:

  1. Watch Morning Joe – breakfast & politics
  2. Don’t eat bread today
  3. Check in with the kids
  4. Get in your 10,000 steps
  5. Paint Paint Paint
  6. Read my book
  7. Sketch ideas for new work
  8. Talk to friends
  9. Check in with the hubby
  10. Wine down the day

Number Seven is my ‘playing the edge’.  In the studio, I am always pushing myself emotionally and mentally with my artwork. I am constantly looking for the edge, the place where I need to shake up my comfort zone.  I dream about new color palettes, new textural processes, new mediums, larger canvas surfaces, new structures.  My neighboring artists will hear me sigh, breathe, walk away, struggle, build, and produce.  I analyze, compromise, and agonize.  It’s not easy;  but neither is life.  To build a business takes time, devotion, energy, risk, guts, and confidence. 

In other words, I am ‘playing the edge’.

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Oh, Your Mother Would Be So Proud!

Last Friday night was my first solo art exhibition.  At the opening, my Aunt Eadie and Uncle Allan both said to me “Oh, Ninoo, your mother would have been so proud of you!”  I’ve been thinking about my mother a lot lately, mainly because she would have celebrated her 85th birthday today.  I still miss her each day and would do anything to hear her on the other end of phone greeting me in her sing-song voice with “Hiiii Nin!!!”.  There is a reminder of my mother every day; subtle and not so obvious.  When I face the mirror every morning, there are features in my reflection that belong to my mother.  When I open my mouth to speak, there she is again – speaking for me.  Her opinions, her words and reasoning are spilling out of my mouth.  My hands are my mother’s hands for goodness sakes!  My pinkie toenails are my mother’s!  (My two sisters also inherited that adorably strange feature too.)

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There are hundreds of books and studies written about mother-daughter relationships, but I’m not about to tackle that subject.  I’m celebrating my mother’s vitality today.  She was a strong woman, positive beyond optimistic, and had the greatest laugh.

Had cancer not taken her from us, I know she would be ‘kvelling’ (yiddish translation: extraordinarily pleased) about my art journey.  She would be proud that I am painting and pursuing my dream. Just like her father and sister, I am following in their footsteps.  Although my mother never had any formal training, she always had a pencil in her hand and was the doodle queen. I can still see her doodles all over every piece of paper in our kitchen in Jenkintown.  Her long skinny orange and yellow flowered address book was crammed with names, phone numbers, addresses and drawings.  When she retired and moved to Florida, she was always looking for projects to satisfy her artistic desire. She designed and painted canvas floor cloths, painted houses and scenes on solid red bricks for door stoppers and painted tall wooden cut out figures.  Her wonderful sketchbook is currently nestled between my sketchbooks and art supplies.  Here’s a peek of some of her renderings and drawings from her Boca Raton condo clubhouse art classes.    I guess I am following in her footsteps too!

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What my mother does not know, is that the most difficult part of my journey has been for me to be the center of attention, and not hiding in the back row.  I’ve always been accustomed  to being the ‘behind the scenes’ person.  I was so painfully shy as a baby, my parents had to carry me into a room full of people with my head burrowed into my father’s shoulder.  I couldn’t even look at a crowd of strangers without wailing. I was so shy as a child, that I would always quietly say YES to every request and question.  The word NO was not in my vocabulary.  I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that even as I approached adulthood, my shyness only improved a little and I still can’t deal easily with any form of confrontation.  I am making progress, however. 

As an artist with a personal history of shy behavior, it’s a giant step for me to show my paintings.  As a lifetime ‘people pleaser’, I am learning to be brave by exposing my art, which is the same thing as exposing my soul.  When my paintings are hanging on a gallery wall and people that I actually don’t know are viewing my work, it’s very scary and exciting at the same time.   My mother has taught me countless times over the years to speak up! and be strong.  Let my voice be heard!  I translate her advice to mean it’s okay if everyone doesn’t love my work…it’s part of the process.  Like writers, musicians, actors, and artists everywhere, this is the path that chose us – not the other way around. 

So here’s to Mom…thank you for your many talents, your love, your optimistic nature, and most of all, the confidence that you instilled in me – I think I finally got it.

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