Friday, November 11, 2011

I like to read.

Logging on to the Internet has become such a regular part of my life, it's really second nature.  Remember the old days when computers were merely word processors? Black screen with green text monitors and 56k RAM (128k for the richies).  If you were lucky, you could play a game or two on one.  I could even say at one point I was a computer programmer.  I programmed our computer to display the word "love" all across the screen with a few simple lines of code.  Oh, I was good.  Not really, everyone could do that.  It was the one trick I think we all knew. 

The film "War Games" was so futuristic with their fancy computers playing chess and potentially starting World War III.  How scary was that?!  

Then time passed.  We as a society were able to own personal computers, laptops and cell phones. And Tom Cruise showed up in "Minority Report" using his nifty computers sweeping his hand across them to move icons and images around on the screen, navigate between windows, etc.  So futuristic! And a few years later, here we are with our little handhelds sweeping our fingers across the screen all Tom Cruise-like without giving it a second thought.  That Tom Cruise - so crafty!

We can navigate life on our computers or phones with ease, find information so quickly all without ever literally flipping a page which may result in a oh-so-painful paper cut. 

There are a thousand reasons why e-books are great.  It saves paper for one.  (Which in turn saves trees, and doesn't fill out landfills with biodegradable paper material (wait, so now we have to dispose of electronic material?  Which I am pretty sure is not biodegradable.)). Okay, I'm not even going to go there.  Instead, I want to make this point:

I like to read.  Remember the days before youtube, vimeo and video posts?  When you could go to a website, read all about whatever you wanted, look at some pictures, search for text?  Ah, those were the days.  I could skim through an article with lightning speed to decide if it was worth my time to read the whole thing or if it in fact contained the information I was seeking.  I could create a picture (or movie, if you will) in my head bringing the author's words to life.  I could ponder the art of the word and wonder how someone could so skillfully put their point of view or the facts on the page.  Because of an author's precision and attention to detail of their craft we'd never be distracted by a typo or misspelling.  Sigh. 

Now, when I log on to a webpage and a video offers to welcome me, I cringe and usually leave the page.  I don't want to wait for it to load.  I don't want to wait for it to buffer.  If you want to keep my attention, let me read!  I will gladly give up time to skim your text to decide if it's worth sticking around.  I might even play your little video if I can at least determine if it's going to be important.  How can I search your video to find if the content is worthy with a simple Command+F (or Control+F)?  To my knowledge this is not possible.  If I want to know about the latest Red Carpet mishap, let me read about it and show me a picture - don't send me to some video where I have to wait for someone to report it to me.  I mean, how much information is there on that anyway?  One sentence, maybe two would be sufficient and hold me over until the next mishap.  Please!

These video posts not only make us lazy, they make "writers" lazy too.  Is it because nobody reads anymore?  I can rarely get through a news article without typos, misspellings, horrific grammar, etc.  And I know I make these mistakes too.  I'm not perfect.  But I'm also not reporting the news, posting to a massively viewed page, or getting paid. 

I love technology.  Film is a part of my life in more ways than one.  I enjoy sitting down and watching a great film in any format of any length.  That is an art in itself which I am grateful for on so many levels.  Television is wonderful and a great escape from reality (unless I'm watching a reality show - which in and of itself is not really real anyway).  I will sit my bum on the sofa and watch for hours at a time sometimes.  I am not opposed to watching things. 

But I'm not there yet when it comes to Internet videos.  Maybe one day I will be there and wait for your video to load to tell me all about whatever is on your website, but I'm not quite there yet.  I'm retro that way.  I like to read.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

You're my inspiration.

A couple of posts ago I asked, "What inspires you?"  Specifically, I was asking about artistic inspiration.  What gets your creative juices flowing?  What makes you want to (insert your art form here)?  We all have times where artistic inspiration is necessary to our well-being, or for the lucky ones, necessary to our means of living.  A great quote from Thomas Merton I found this week says, "‎Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."  It's perfect definition of art. 

This time I'm not talking about inspiring creativity.  I'm talking about inspiring life.  Yes, that's right, life.  Quite a broad subject, I know, so I'll narrow it down... kind of. 

A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to travel to LA for a few days.  It was on short notice and mostly for business so not a lot of planning went into the trip.  One thing is for certain though, on any trip to LA we have a list things we must do:  Eat In-N-Out as much as possible (only 3 times this trip), eat as many donuts from Donut Hut in Burbank as possible (personally I ate 7!), go to Mosaic, and visit with the Green's.
Apple Fritter,
Old Fashioned & Powdered
Yum, Donut Hut!

We are fortunate enough to still have many wonderful friends in LA.  We do our best to connect with them when we go to California.  Somehow, though, there's always this anticipatory excitement to visit the Green's.  Now, we have known the Green's for a relatively short time, only a little over four years.  They are an incredibly amazing family of five who got to know us through some of the most confusing and tumultuous times in our lives.  Perhaps that is why we think so highly of them - they showed us love and support when few did and we are so grateful for them.  They are some of the most selfless people I've ever met.  I knew this, and yet on this trip, it seems this is the one lesson that was magnified for me. 

I'm always expectant when we know we are going to visit the Green's.  Let me clarify - expectant that I am going to discover something incredibly important. 

Like carrying a shovel and a map with a big X on it to the beach to dig up buried treasure, I carried in my overnight bag into the Green's and waited for that treasure chest of gold to pop open. 

Jewels and gold were flying everywhere!  Through super conversation we were given some excellent advice on some matters we had been struggling with.  Advice that was contrary to what we wanted to hear, but advice that we needed to hear.  I had filled up my little bag with jewels and stuffed it in my pocket.  Content! 

We ended up staying an extra day to offer a hand with some home projects.  Stuff we love to do and of course we were stoked to have another day to visit.  I'd sneak a peek at those brilliant gems before we fell asleep each night, thankful for the bounty.

The Green's are the kind of people who don't get put out.  This is hard for me to comprehend since I do enjoy my own time, my own space, my own everything.  Don’t we all?  It's the American way! 

They literally do for everyone and don't bat an eye about it.  I knew this about our friends, but this time their selflessness flashed at me like a neon sign in the black of night. 

Have you ever had a 19-year-old gladly give up her bedroom and exclaim, "Yay!" when you tell her you need it for one more night?  And mean it?  With all the joy and happiness in their heart?  Incredible!  I know teenagers (and adults) who get irritated when asked to scoot over on the couch so one could sit down.  This one was giving up her very newly remodeled room.  Some gold added to my booty.  Ching-ching!

In all the conversations I've had with friends about family I've never had one person be genuinely bummed when I tell them I don't spend much time with my sisters.  Usually, I get, "Well, you know how it is, people are busy.  I'm sure they are fine with it." or "Yeah, we'd all like to spend more time with family."  They all easily accept my excuses.  But my friend expressed something odd and out of the ordinary when I stated that fact.  She didn't lecture me or give me a guilt trip or anything of the sort, she just seemed like she genuinely cared that I didn't spend much time with them.  I didn't even want to attempt to give any excuses. 

These two things alone stuck with me.  I could mention a dozen more selfless things the Green's did in the two-and-a half short days we were there, but those two little things shone that spotlight on the selfishness in my life.

It took me several days wrestling with what I had learned (really, what I knew) about myself to come to the decision that I no longer want to live a life of selfishness and that I needed to do something about it, pronto.  I dug out a book with a quote that's haunted me for years and made a decision:  I do not want to live on the doorstep of hell.

"To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell." Thomas Merton. 

This is perfectly paired with something said by my most favorite Person of all time, "Love your neighbor as yourself." 

I am not always going to succeed at this, I realize, but I am putting forth major effort and of course relying on God to help me.  He has given me the perfect example to follow which takes faith I sometimes struggle with.  But He has also given me many wonderful people I can touch and feel and physically see to inspire me.  People like the Green's who show me what He expects of me, how He loves me and how He loves others. 

I empty out that bag of gems and gold everyday.  I see the beauty of the lessons I learned in those couple of days.  Not only do I see sparkling jewels and brilliant gold, I see my reflection in the facets, marred and fractured.  A beautiful reminder of what I can be.

As I wander through this life, attempting to live it not for myself, I am inspired.

You're my inspiration. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Odd is Beautiful

If you've ever noticed, I like the odd.  Anything that is slightly off, I'd choose it in a heartbeat over something that is "normal" or considered "perfect".  Put two items seemingly identical next to each other and you can bet I'll choose the one that is off.  For example, I was shopping at my favorite clothing store in Burbank (It's A Wrap - where they sell "used" clothes from film & television's wardrobe departments) and I found three silkscreened t-shirts.  They were identical except one of the silkscreen prints was printed on backwards.  I, of course, bought the one with the backwards silkscreen.  Perfectly odd and interesting.  I am intrigued by what looks different, what looks out of the ordinary. 

I am so comfortable choosing the odd and have always been for as long as I can remember.  When I was six-years-old, during a visit to my grandparent's house in Gallup, NM just before Thanksgiving, my family and I ventured to a city park.  I was a fan of playing on the bars.  Remember those days?  Hopping up on the bars, spinning and flipping around?  Well, back then, that was my thing.  I played on the bars.  At this playground, I ran over to the parallel bars.  For those of you who spent your childhood prior to the 90's, you'll remember that our playgrounds consisted of mostly metal equipment sometimes paired with wooden posts.  Nothing like the playground equipment of today and certainly not padded with wood chips or the like.  We played on dirt (with rocks in it) on metal equipment.  These parallel bars were long metal 10 foot poles anchored by wooden posts on each side.  Not unusual.  One of the parallel bars was bent the other was perfectly straight.  I distinctly remember thinking to myself as I approached the bars, "I'm not at all bothered by that bent one, I'll hop up on that one." (Or something like that.)  So I did.  I grabbed the bar and hopped up lifting myself up so that my waist would have met my hands.  But I did not.  Instead, the wooden posts broke and the bar came down right on top of me across my stomach sending me flat on my back to the ground.  Here I was, this scrawny six-year-old, flat on my back with this long metal pole on top of me.  Like those stories you hear about women lifting cars off of their children or something crazy, my stick-like arms mustered the strength of a 12 year-old and pushed that bar off of me.  Long story short (and after a trip to the emergency room where we was told I was fine), this attraction and acceptance of the odd left me vomiting blood on the way home to Albuquerque later that day, Dad receiving a police escort to the hospital after being pulled over for speeding, a tube down my nose which was the conduit for ice-cold water to the stomach to induce vomiting, internal bleeding from no one knew where, a not fun hospital stay in Gallup, a lawsuit from a very angry Nana to the city, a long trip back home to find out I was about a pint of blood short and finally a nifty little blood transfusion.

Still, I find myself drawn to what's different.  And honestly, I know I'd still choose the bent bar over the straight one today.  I can't help it. 

Typically, we are drawn to symmetry and things "colored within the lines" in most every aspect.  This is not wrong of course.  There is no right or wrong here.  I'm talking preference.  Preference and contentment.  I prefer the odd and am perfectly content with the imperfect.  I have been told that I need to stop trying to be perfect.  I find it funny that some see me as that because I'm so drawn to the "imperfect".  I strive to do the best at what I am doing when I am given a task.  I like to be "put together".  I like a clean house.  These things do not have to do with me being perfect.  They have to do with what I am a steward over.  Different altogether and for another discussion. 

So, please forgive me if you find me staring at something that you may find odd.  I am simply appreciating beauty.  Odd is beautiful.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What inspires you?

"What inspires you?"  I asked this question once to a group of people I considered very creative.  And by creative, this time I mean creative in the artist sense.  (Someday I may write about being creative and not in the artistic sense, because we were all created to be creative - but that's a whole different discussion).  The answers I got sort of threw me.  I was so sort of flabbergasted, the only real answer I can remember had something to do with that person's abilities and how great they were.  Odd.  Perhaps I didn't communicate clearly the question.  I seem to have had trouble in the area of communication lately, so this is a viable reason.  Or perhaps we keep our inspiration to ourselves.  Kind of like a protective shell.  We can't let others know what inspires us out of fear of being judged or maybe because if we tell others, some magical force will cancel out our creativity because we revealed the chink in our armor.  Isn't that what it really is sometimes?  We are afraid if we speak it aloud like some superstition we'll never again be able to create.  I think that could be it.  Fear is also a killer.  Fear of being judged.  If I would have asked to question to artists mature in their craft or even in life would I have gotten different answers?  Deeper, truthful answers?  I don't think one's vanity was truly their inspiration.  That must have been their struggle for words or just their misunderstanding of the question. 

After all, art is a personal expression of ourselves so a finished product is not so different than the source of inspiration except that the finished product is, well, finished.  Could the source of inspiration be much more personal than the actual product?  I think I can be fairly sure this is true, at least for me.  Perhaps I should not speak for all artists.  I know when I write, the source of inspiration is flooded in emotion, usually deep struggles, confusion, sadness, hopelessness and anger.  I don't know why, but those are the things that inspire my writings.  But those aren’t the only things.  Beautiful things, love, hope and joy also inspire me, just usually not to write.  They inspire me to move, to go, to pursue, to try.  The things that inspire me to move come in all shapes and sizes, they range from God's creations in nature and people and also other's art.  Whether on canvas, film, a sculpture in bronze or clay, notes on a scale or a melody sung by one or choirs, movements on pointe or the music of taps on feet, I am inspired.  All these things bring me joy and tears.  All these things make me want to be creative.  My soul bleeds tears of joy and pain when I see a beautiful dancer laying it all out on the line for all to see.  There is just about nothing as beautiful as that to me.  So, when I see creative people creating, I am inspired.  I long to tell stories of deep pain and hurt.  I long to tell stories of healing and hope.  I, like the one struggling to convey their inspiration to me, struggle with how I will create.  I struggle with the how, with the what.  Dancers dance.  Musicians play.  Painters paint.  Sculptors sculpt.  Filmmakers make movies.  Singers sing.  Writers write.  What if I don't fit into any of those things? How will I create?  Never focusing on one thing, mediocre is my partner and frustration is my best friend.  How?  What?  Questions I must find answers to so that not only can I answer the question, "What inspires you?" but so that I may allow myself to move and create.