Sunday, June 28, 2020

Norman Rockwell Never Got a Fair Shake

I love artwork of all shapes, sizes and mediums. But I have always been drawn to paintings mostly from 1500s‐1700s. A broad amount of styles are covered during this time frame. One painter I have never quite given his due is Norman Rockwell. 

As a child, I saw his paintings where everyone had comically screwed up expressions on their faces and I didn't care for it. So, apparently, I didn't think I liked any of his work. In college, I sat down on a couch at a party in a house I shouldn't have been in. There was a Norman Rockwell book on the coffee table. I picked it up hoping to somehow feel less uncomfortable. I was mesmerized. 

There were not only page after page of paintings I had never seen before, some were absolutely breathtaking.  WWII, Vietnam, The American Life, Social Justice Issues, Racial and Religious Turmoil. Mr. Rockwell's paintings covered every subject matter I could imagine.  The beauty struck me upside the head. Literally. I became tearful when studying a few of them. I knew I needed to find this amazing book and own it for my self. 

I never did find the book that I found on the coffee table that night.  I did look at the library, at garage sales and thrift stores and found a few, but none of them were as colorful or comprehensive.  

Earlier this year, I found a huge Norman Rockwell book at the local Goodwill. I was searching for books on Italy and came across a few beautiful arts books. My heart smiled when I saw the artist's name on the binding.  I was elated. It was not the same book from all those years ago, but one that I liked even more.  It was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company in 1999 and contained a large number of stories and additional information about each painting, commissions and where the painting resides today. 

And, to my delight, it contained all three of my favorite Rockwell paintings. 

The Connoisseur, 1962

By far, my favorite.  The Jackson Pollock on the wall, the floor pattern, the man's cane and hat. But most of all, how close the man is standing to view the Pollock.  I imagine he has stood there for quite some time. Finding something new in each brushstroke.

Southern Justice, Murder in Mississippi 1965

This amazing painting was the first to ever make me cry.  The shadows, the desperation, the scattered large and small rocks, the blood.  

Girl at Mirror, 1954

This beautiful young girl, stuck between being a child and adulthood. Studying her features in the mirror as she closely examines the starlet in the magazine. The soon to be forgotten doll.

I paged through the book which sits on a large silver platter on the footstool in the front living room the other day.  I explored the stories behind a few more paintings, but I saw myself gravitate back to these three.  Spellbinding.

I never gave this amazing artist a fair shake. Artwork grows on me. Something I thought I didn't like, now may have become my favorite. And I want to share it with others. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Today I Choose Joy

I recently started a new group on Facebook called Today I Choose Joy.  During this time of Covid-19 Stay at Home Orders and Social Distancing, I found myself and everyone around me weren't very joy filled.  Grumbling and complaining about current circumstances, many wanting to know if a trade could be made for the people living under the same roof for new quarantine partners in crime, and the desire to flee seemed to be what most were talking about.  

George Floyd was killed, Minneapolis burned, and protesters stepped to the forefront demanding much needed change. Protests continued to spread from city to city and then to other states and even around the world.  Hearts are desperate for dramatic improvements and lives have been destroyed.  The chaos in our world weighs heavily.  Tears have been the only way to communicate along with hugs and just listening as I come alongside my black sisters and brothers.  I am learning to love, to remove any biased thoughts I thought did even exist and hopefully model what love your neighbor really looks like in a hurting world. 

How do we choose Joy when everything seems broken? How do we encourage others when sadness and pain are prevalent? For me, I look for what is beautiful. For what edifies and encourages. I look for laughter and meaning. I want to learn something, teach someone and share with others.  I want to smile and enable others to do the same. 

Whether it is pictures of newly hatched robin's eggs, or the kids in the pool for the first time this season.  Sometimes it is siblings playing together and not fighting for a change. The reunion of desperately missed grandparents with grandchildren.  A video of contagious laughter that makes me cry laugh also. And sometimes it is words of truth, words of love and necessary words to share. Whatever it is, it brings me joy.  

When I am not joy filled, I have to make the concerted effort to choose joy daily. 

I thank each and every member of the group. For sharing laughter and compliments. For asking questions and seeking a further connection. For stepping out of their comfort zone and engaging with internet strangers.  It is an honest pleasure to Choose Joy Daily with you.

When it Hits too Close to Home

I love the fact that there are so many podcasts and documentaries available about true crime, both solved and unsolved.  I also love that a few close friends enjoy them as much as I do. We are able to talk about what we have learned, ask each other questions and fill in the possible missing pieces when we aren’t quite sure what happened in the end.  

About 6 months ago, I discovered that my 13 year old daughter also loves true crime and unsolved mysteries. I knew she enjoyed spy stories and mysteries, but walked into her room one afternoon and she was listening to a crime podcast. Shocked, I may have panicked a bit.  I questioned her about what she was listening to, what she had listened to in the past, where she found new things to listen to and then asked if she herself had any questions.  

"Mom, I love these. Please don't make me stop listening to them." Lily went on to talk about what ones she liked the most and the recent interviews she had listened to.  I couldn't blame her for being drawn to this subject.  By nature, she is inquisitive and a problem solver.  She doesn't just want to know the story, she wants to know the why behind the story.  What happened, who was involved, what did the investigation look like and what was the motivation behind the crime. She began to retell stories to me as if she had just listened to them.  She recalled all of the important details including location and time frame and even volunteered what lingering questions remained unanswered for her. 

I have reminded her that if she is ever bothered by the subject matter, it is important to know when to take a step back.  She hasn't ever told me that she needed to do that.  She just keeps sharing amazing stories about what she is listening to and what she is learning.  She does now occasionally ask me the meaning of words and locations of certain towns in far away lands

While driving in the car today on our way to Texas, she started asking questions about Fort Hood and if I had heard about the girl named Vanessa in the military that went missing in April that still hadn't been found. The tears quickly welled in my eyes and breathing became difficult.  She thought she was in trouble and couldn't figure out why I got so upset so quickly. Josh told her everything is okay, but that I needed a minute and I would explain. 

I lost a friend 25 years ago. She was kidnapped from Goodfellow Air Force Base, raped and murdered.  I have thought of her many times over the years and have prayed for her family.  My heart still hurts more than I thought.  The tears came so quickly at just the thought of her that I alarmed both my kids.  

While true crime and unsolved mysteries, documentaries and podcasts can be very interesting entertaining, they can also bring up memories and heartache when it hits too close to home.  

My friend had an amazing smile, an infectious laughter and made new friends everywhere she went. She dated another friend of mine and we enjoyed fun evenings with combined youth groups from other churches.  She was funny and talented, self deprecating and one that was noticed in every situation.  So many people had the luxury of being her friend, which made her absence even more apparent.

I remember shortly after she was killed, I developed a strange rash on the upper portion of my body.  All down my neck and chest and even down my arms to my elbows. I woke one morning to see it had spread to my chin and panicked. I was getting married in a few months and all of the damaged skin would be visible in my wedding dress.  I went to the doctor to plead my case and thought something was majorly wrong with me.  

The doctor firmly believed my rash was stress induced and instructed me to use an ointment if it began to itch and said it should clear itself up.  I had mentioned I was getting married in a few months and he thought that along with getting married and starting a new job, that I must be under a lot of stress. My wedding was completely planned, everything was coming along perfectly and I adored my new job at the bank.  I started thinking about what other stress I could possibly be experiencing that could physically manifest itself as such a severe widespread rash.

I traced the stress back to the death of my friend.  When she died, I started thinking about the safety of women in general. About men, the sheer size of men who seem to tower over women, sometimes take advantage of women and the fact that men seek women out and kill them.  I was filled with fear.  I worried about opening the bank in the morning with only one other woman. I worried about walking two blocks home from work. I worried about being followed when I was walking in Excelsior down by Lake Minnetonka. I worried that what happened to my friend could also easily happen to me.  

The worry and fear that I was experiencing was real.  But it was also causing my skin to break down and scar. I knew I needed to talk about this and sat down with my soon to be husband. Josh listened, he hugged me, he reassured me, and he begged me to talk to him more about what was bothering me. He insisted that I needed to stop being so guarded and to begin sharing all that I was thinking about. All that I  was fearful of and worrying about. 

Our conversations were frequent and sometimes long.  Once I started talking, everything seemed to just feel easier, lighter.  And all that fear and worry seemed to dissipate. It took time, but I felt better. 

The loss of someone can be very revealing.  The loss of someone special unveiled the fact that I didn't know how to deal with fear and worry and that my guarded self was what was making me sick.  I learned so many valuable lessons during the months leading up to our wedding. But the most important lesson I learned was about being honest and sharing rather than bottling everything up until it actually hurts.  

Now these 25+ years later, I will have the opportunity to share with my daughter about what happened and what I learned.  Later today, when we are not driving for 9 hours to Joplin, MO, when we are resting in a hotel room after a nice swim, I will sit Lily down and I will talk with her. I will answer her questions and I tell her I love her.  I will tell her I am glad that I am able to share these important things with her. Because sometimes, the hard lessons are the most essential to learn.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision
By: Kelli J Gavin 
for Writers Unite!

All Roads Lead to Rome. I remember hearing that statement when I was a child. I didn't have a clue what it meant then, but then learned more about the Roman Empire in High School and found out that the Roman Roads were built accordingly and that truly, all of the roads led to Rome. The French poet, Alain de Lille, had coined the phrase in the Middle Ages in 1175 and it has been used ever since.

My mother once said, "Well, you will always have a home. All roads lead home."

I understood that she was telling me that I was always welcome home, no matter if I had felt the need to travel down every other road before heading home.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that the expression was actually- All Roads Lead to Rome. I knew what she meant, and she was just communicating her love for me. I led my life for quite a few years doing anything I could to avoid being home. My mother was on guard and aware of this. Hence her desire to enable me to know that once I felt the need to settle down in my search for the unknown, I would always have a place to return.

I once developed what you would call tunnel vision.  My focus, my thoughts, my desires were all completely centered on one thing.  My waking thoughts soon were completely overtaken, and the what ifs seemed to swim at night when my head hit the pillow. My attention span was severely diminished and I was on overdrive and completely overwhelmed with something I thought I wanted.  Something I was convinced I needed. 

It didn't matter that what I thought I wanted, really wasn't for me. Once, my brain was trained on it, I wanted what I wanted. I would do anything I needed to to claim it as mine. I kept justifying my words and actions, stating that I had a goal and that I was always told to persevere to obtain my goals.  Somewhere along the way, I had placed myself at the center of the universe and forgot that my words mattered and my actions were affecting others.

Multiple relationships began to suffer, I was exhausted because I wasn't sleeping and my home looked as if a tornado had entered and swept through frequently.  I am thankful for a dear friend that helped me stop in my tracks. 

"Your tunnel vision has disabled you from seeing the carnage.  Everything that has been left by the wayside, is because of you and your choices. I love you, but stop being so self- centered and start focusing on anything but you."

Knowing how much my friend loved me and had stood by me over the years, I knew those words were shared in love, in hope of invoking real change. And they did.  My tunnel vision had destroyed almost everything in my life.  They were right, my self-centered focus had left carnage and I needed to start immediately repairing what could be fixed. 

How do you fix everything that has been destroyed?  One small step at a time. One intentional, challenging, sometimes even heartbreaking conversation and then another.  Fixing the carnage requires saying I'm sorry. It always requires asking for forgiveness.  Carnage repairs made me understand that because of my behavior, I also needed to be okay with not being forgiven, and that some relationships would never be restored. 

The mistakes I made because of tunnel vision were what showed me that all roads really do lead home. My mom was right. Home isn't necessarily comfortable. Home isn't always where I wished I was able to dwell. But Home is Home for a reason.  Not the house, not the structure. But the people. The family and loved ones.  The memories and the excitement of what is yet to come. Every single road that leads Home, is the road I hope to find.

When I lose my way, when something distracts me, or even when the bumps and ruts seem to be too much.  I am thankful for the fact that all roads lead home.  Fully aware of my tendency for tunnel vision to take over in all aspects of my life, I am now on guard like the Roman soldiers. Aware, cautious and ready to stand my ground until the road home seems possible.

I Know What That Means- By: Kelli J Gavin for Writers Unite!

I Know What That Means By: Kelli J Gavin After my family moved to Minneapolis three years ago, my parents refused to visit us in our ne...