Hungry for your art.

I’ve been thinking lately about art and the power that it wields.  Now, when I say “art,” I don’t mean just the highbrow stuff that few people (least of all me) have access to.  I’m talking about the art we see everywhere–in our books, our movies, our fashion, even (dare we admit it?) our tv shows.  We call it pop art and, though naysayers claim its commercial and diluted (they’re probably right) it seeps into and shapes our reality, and therefore deserves our consideration.  And the thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how easily we give ourselves over to the Artist, so hungry are we for the Art.

You may not consider yourself a connosseur of art, but you are; you probably just take it in a different form than someone else does.  Some forms, no doubt, are more substantial than others–I’m not gonna say Duck Dynasty requires the same investment from us as does, say, Great Expectations–but Duck Dynasty is still meeting people’s needs for Story, for Metaphor, for Moral, for a fictional, and therefore controllable, reality.  (At the risk of offending some viewers, I maintain that all “reality” shows are actually fictional.  You know what I mean.)

We enter this world starving for art.  We want to consume it, and we want to create it.  And it’s a good thing that art does take varied forms, because that makes room for all of us–the painter, the seamstress, the carpenter, the drummer, the baker, the writer, the party planner, the scrapbooker (not kidding), the cellist, the executive, the interior designer–to become artists.  And that becoming is what makes our lives interesting, and meaningful, and fun.  It’s what gets us through the drudge.  You may not see yourself as artistic, but can you imagine a life without your own creativity?  My brother-in-law is a master on the Traeger–you know, that fancy barbeque thingamajig that every red-blooded man lusts after these days?  My BIL makes a smoked tenderloin in that thing that, when tasted, flings us straight up to the gods.  That’s art.

So what I want to know is this:

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if we are born to be Artists, why do we surrender our creative space and time to the likes of, say, Chelsea Handler or Miley Cyrus?  Why do we make room in our fascinating, fantastic brains–that are just crackling with ideas and energy–for Fifty Shades of Gray?  Why do we–so armed with ingenuity and curiosity, with inventiveness and wonder–give our tremendous power of artistic consumption to the undeserving?

I’m not talking about snobbery here, I’m talking about virtue.  And when I say virtue, I’m not talking about religion, I’m talking about power.  Did you know that virtue also means power?  Few things are more (quietly) powerful than art and so, in its truest form, art is a manifestation of virtue.  Pure in its desire, sincere in its effort.  Principled.  Powerful.  Created, and given, with benevolence.  My brother-in-law’s tenderloin, my sister-in-law’s crosstitch, my daughter’s piano sonata, my husband’s marketing strategy?  Art.


What do you do that’s pure in intention, sincere in effort, given with benevolence?  That’s your art.  Don’t be afraid of it.  Create it, and then give it away.  Give it to others.  Give it to me.  Our need for art is like a vacuum, and if you don’t fill it, someone else–like Robin Thicke or Kim Kardashian or that horrible CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch–will.  I don’t believe these kind of artists are sincere in their efforts, and I don’t think they give with benevolence.  I believe they take–our money, mostly–and we allow them to, because it seems that no one else is offering anything better.  That’s where you come in.

The World of Art needs you and, more importantly, you need your Artistic Self.  Because the more time you spend creating the good stuff, the less time you’ll spend consuming the junk.  What are you good at–or even kindasorta good at?  What do you enjoy doing?  What, once you get started, makes you forget to eat?  (That’s how I gauge a real passion.)  What do you just have to “get right?”  What do you create sincerely and give away benevolently? Where do you find your power, your virtue?  That’s your art.  Stop apologizing for doing it badly and just do it.  Do it badly, then do it better, then do your best and then give it away.  Give it to others.  Give it to me.  Because we live in a world of fakers, and we are starving for the real thing.  We are starving for your imagination and ingenuity, for your vision and virtue.  We are starving–my original and authentic, my principled and passionate–friend, for you.




I look good.

So, like everyone else on the planet, I’ve been hitting the gym pretty hard this January.  It’s been fun to get back into exercise, and I’ve been feeling good.  So good, in fact, that I hesitated to mention it here lest I drive my readership away in their throes of jealousy.  Because after all that exercise (it’s been three whole weeks you guys!) I can assume but one thing:  I look good.  Shoot, I’d even go so far as to say I look geeood.  That’s how hard I’ve been working.  And it’s this thought–how good I look–that sustains me in my efforts.

 When my phone wakes me at 5 am and pulls me, groggy and grumpy, out of Gerard Butler’s arms (where I can always be found at 5 am), only one thought is potent enough to get me out of bed:  I look good.

Eyes closed, I slide off the mattress and into the closet, where my lycra and spandex await me.  Pulling, pinching, and stuffing myself into the “activewear,” I tell myself (eyes still closed), “That you cannot draw breath in this sports bra, that these running tights are smashing last night’s pizza up your rib cage, that the rest of the family will now enjoy another two hours of sleep–it’s all worth it.”  Why? Because I look good.

Driving to the gym in the dark, I’ve no choice but to open at least one of my eyes.  (Not to brag, but I’ve kind of mastered the Cyclops Driving Method this month.  Hey, it’s early.)  I fumble with the stereo in hopes of a station to keep me awake for the two minute drive, but find only weather forecasts and yesterday’s political rants.  Early morning air time is apparently reserved for the trucking crowd because, unless it’s one’s profession, what idiot would be driving at this hour?  An angry man screams at me through the speaker about things over which I have no control–something I don’t need to get up at dawn for since I can get the same treatment from my own kids at any time during the day.  It’s too early to for this, I think, but it’s worth it.  Why?

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Because I look good.

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I pull into my parking space, fumble out of the car and across the lot, and pull the heavy glass door open against the driving winter wind.  Bright lights and big smiles greet me as I walk in, compelling me, at last, to open my extra eye.  I cross the mat to join the Circle of the Dedicated, already warming up with quad stretches and shoulder rolls.  Feeling a little more awake now, I take a deep breath and brace myself for the onslaught of exertion that awaits me.  I’ll be alright, I tell myself; I’ll make it through.  Why?  Because on the other side of every workout, I look good.

I jump, quite literally, into the circuit training, quickly panting my way into a full-board sweat.  I lift, I lower, I push up, I pull down, I squat, I plank, I plie.  (I think that’s what that last one was?)  I work, work, work, all of it done with the smug satisfaction that, though I hover near exhaustion, I look hotfreaking good while hovering.  Forty minutes into the routine, I am, at last, fully alert.  My blood is pumping, my heart is racing, my face is flaming.  And my brain is soaring–with all the possibilities this early morning workout holds for me.  I could train for a triathlon!  I jump my rope a little faster at the thought.  I could climb Mt. Everest!  I hold my plank position a little longer, envisioning Gerard Butler as my Sherpa.  I could replace Jillian Michaels on the “Biggest Loser!”  Lowering myself in a push-up, I make a silent promise to my clients to allow several more grams of carbs per day.  (I’m tough, but kind.)  I can do anything! my endorphins are shouting.  And more importantly,  I will look good doing it.


(like this.)

The session nearly over, it was time for high-knees.  Unlike the others, this last drill was executed facing the gym window; it required me to run toward the glass and back again like Jughead escaping Big Ethel.  The exercise itself was not a problem–I was a rubber hose at this point and no longer felt pain–but the reflection was.  The reflection was a big problem.  Because, you see, as I ran toward that window in my jiggling sports bra and expanding lycra, heaving my knees up as high as my thighs would take them (it was so much higher in my head!), I encountered a new reality:  I did not--did not–look good.

I did not look good at all.  I looked, in fact, bad.  Very, very bad!  Despite my three weeks (!) of intense and admirable training, I looked less like Jillian Michaels and more like a forty-year old housewife who’s had three kids and–bless her heart–is trying to to not going down without a fight.  All thoughts of Gerard and I on the trail vanished, replaced by only one thought: they lied about the black lycra.  It doesn’t hide anything.

I wish I could say that I went home, had a good cry, searched my soul, then decided that my worth was not found in a gym window’s reflection.  I wish I could tell you that the moral of this story is Overcoming Vanity and Finding Inner Beauty but alas, it is not.  There are other, better stories with those morals.  The moral of this story is:

1)  Avoid your reflection in the gym windows at all costs, especially while doing high-knees in lycra capri pants (whatever the color), and

2)  Keep telling yourself that you look good.  Age and beauty are states of mind, and it’s a good thing because, as the years go by, I’m gonna have to rely on my mind more than my mirror.  And that’s okay, because in my head–if not my reflection–my frantic efforts at 5 am are paying off.  In my head, I am just absolutely certain that, after all is eaten and done, I still look good.

(Oh I don’t?)



Freud says there are no accidents.

It was a typical Sunday morning, until I woke up.  At seven a.m., the Hub came in and announced that the Dog had somehow gotten out of our room last night and:

1) urinated generously on our family room carpet, and

2) defecated generously on our living room carpet.

And because said Hub was running out the door, the treat of the cleanup was all mine.  This was not how I’d planned to begin my Sabbath Day.

I had planned to rise early that morning anyway–to clean up the house and get dinner in the crock-pot before church–but it was not to be.  Instead, I spent the next seventy minutes (for real) working over both carpets with the industrial-strength carpet cleaning machine that we’d purchased when we got Maude.  (Not that this dog has cost us any money.)   I finished just in time to be late for church.

Okay, I thought, we’ll arrive a few minutes after they start and sneak in the back.  I showered and dressed, got my eight-year old boy up and into the shower, then went to his room to lay out his church clothes, like I do every Sunday.  (This is necessary, because if his church clothes aren’t explicitly laid out, he will try to sneak out the door in basketball shorts and his Despicable Me shirt, which is neon yellow and covered with an enormous iron-on bearing a single eye behind a goggle.  Curse you, Walt Disney.)   I reached in the closet for one of his white dress shirts and, to my surprise, found none there.  I was confused.  Since he was a toddler, Ethan’s church clothes have hung neatly alone in his closet.  All other clothes are folded in his dresser, leaving the entire closet free for his two white shirts, his only pair of dress pants, and several ties–all of which represent, to Ethan, His Weekly Day of Repression and Misery.


I had just washed, folded and ironed every piece of laundry in the house (bam!) and I hadn’t seen either of the shirts or the pair of pants, which told me they must, as usual, be hanging in his closet.  Even if one of the shirts was dirty, the other should have been available, along with the pants and tie.  But on this morning–this dog defecating, already late-for-church, grossly-bad-mood morning–the closet was empty.

I opened the  door wider and looked to the left and to the right.  A missing shirt was one thing, but two?  Where could they both have gone?  And the pants?  The ties still hung in their cluster, but his newest one–the one he’d worn last week–was gone, too.    All the laundry baskets were empty, thanks to my efforts the day before, so no dice there.  I checked my closet, Derrick’s closet, the girls’ closet, the hall closet, under the beds, under his mattress, his toys, under the stairs, the kitchen cupboards, the dishwasher.  I checked the van.  I checked the yard.  No white dress shirts.  No dress pants.  No new tie.

Upon aggressive interrogation, Ethan insisted he had no clue to the Church Clothes’ whereabouts, and maybe he didn’t.  Maybe, in all the innocence of youth, he had accidentally lost the clothes.  But the problem that posed for me was:  where would he have left two white shirts, a pair of pants, and a tie?

Did he accidentally leave them at the the church last Sunday?  (What would he have worn home?  And how would he have both shirts with him?)

Did he accidentally leave them in the car last Sunday?  (Wouldn’t I have noticed he was topless as he pulled the van door closed?)

Did he accidentally leave them in the dumpster outside the garage?  (I couldn’t bring myself to dig through it, but this possibility is climbing up my list.)

I don’t know.  And I still don’t know, as the clothing has, as of this post, still not been found.  What I do know is that:

1.  Ethan wore an old blue polo, skinny pants that are too short, and an extremely satisfied grin to church on Sunday, and

2.  Freud says there are no accidents.  He may not have had a dog, but he did have three sons–all of whom, I’m guessing, had their own subconscious repulsions toward dressing up for church.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but a tie is always a noose and must, therefore, be occasionally escaped by its wearer.  Even–oops–on accident.