Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Peggy, beautiful and wise then, beautiful and wise now.

 One of the things I love about my work is that it connects me with other people and their
stories and memories of their grandmothers, mothers, friends, aunts and whoever has touched
their lives.  I had the pleasure of meeting Peter through one of the recently published 
articles about Beauty and Wisdom and offered to share his mom with the viewers and readers
of the Beauty and Wisdom blog. 
This is Peggy from her wedding  day in 1957.  She never had any wedding photos until her son
Peter, found a box of slides in the basement that she had never seen. They were too poor to
afford a photographer, but someone had taken photos and they were forgotten.
Peter's father passed before ever seeing these.
 This is Peggy now in a photo taken at Peter's wedding in may.  Peter pointed out that 
his mom was the one smiling.... but it was obvious that this was the same woman 
from the earlier picture, with the same spirit, same smile.... beautiful... and wise.
Thank you Peter for sharing your mum with us!! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

83 and flying high!!!

This is my very good friend's mom, Aliene, 83 who just did a bungy jump in Oregon.   EIGHTY-THREE!!!!   Now that's amazing and so is she.  Kudos Aliene!  Thank you for being a wonderful inspiration.

Obviously , we all don't have to bungy jump to be brave. However, Aliene definitely reminds us that bravery and courage is still part of our being at every age.

Rock on Aliene!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Small Manageable Steps

Wow, it's been 4 months since I've blogged or journaled.  Too many people are telling me about their journaling and I take that as a sign to get back on track and do it myself. (By the way, why doesn't my computer register the words journaling and journaled??)  I really like journaling and also blogging, but I don't have time to do both, so I will blog as a journal, and hopefully, somebody, somewhere, will relate and share their experiences too... sort of like pen pals... but through blogging.

Photo: RJK, Rome, Italy
It's ironic that my last blog talked about my hot yoga class because it was in hot yoga today, that I made the decision to write today. I've been meeting a lot of people where I live and I'm beginning to feel a little too exposed.... vulnerable, because the more I am out there, the more there is a chance of doing something, or not doing something, that will insult or rub someone the wrong way.  Can you say Weenie?!?  I feel like I've been in a fog of sorts trying to figure out my "next" step in life...of course, all the while, stepping anyway in the direction I am sure I need to go.  But every now and then, I feel like I'm not doing enough or making enough money or I'm just not living as purposeful as I think I can.  Sometimes, it is so difficult for me to be content, right where I am...   I have so many ideas that I get paralyzed and find it difficult to take a step towards taking action on any of them.  But today, I feel more encouraged about taking steps...even if they are baby steps... and as I write this I realize that it is exactly the size of the steps I think I need to take that trip me up.  Anne LaBorde, a wise therapist, once taught me that it's all about taking small manageable steps and I  believe that to be true. 

Another challenge that gets in the way is when I forget that who I am is enough and that "being seen" is only scary if I care too much what other people think.  I have to be who I am... all of who I am.  And even I don't like parts of me... but work on accepting myself and loving myself unconditionally.  Yesterday I downloaded "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown and I know I will glean a lot from her words and experiences.  I thoroughly enjoyed "The Power of Vulnerability" and now I need another dose of wise words that remind me to embrace my own vulnerability and be perfectly fine with it.  I've been there before, and I'll be there again.  I find being vulnerable to be so empowering, when I am completely present with it. 

I'll keep this short since writing today was my baby step.  Please share any of your experiences and baby steps to get the wheel going again in your life!  After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. :-)

Wishing you love and light on your journey....


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Wisdom and Humility

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. William Faulkner

I just got back from a hot yoga class.  I have not done yoga steadily since we moved in July.  Needless to say, I am out of yoga shape. I walk and hike but the rest of my body has been asleep for the last 10 months.  Luckily, 2 weeks ago I took the class and there was no one there so I got to have a private class with the teacher who went through the positions with me so at least, today, I had an idea of what was going on.  However, that did not compensate for the lack of stability and strength that my body displayed today.  As a songwriter, I see most things as metaphors... and quite honestly, even if I never wrote a song, I'd probably still see everything as a metaphor and this yoga class was no different.  As I watched myself in the mirror teeter while trying to balance, my own critical judgment showed up, initially, and how grateful I am that before too long the "angel on my shoulder" showed up too reminding me how long it's been and that it's not a competition, not even with myself and that this whole practice of yoga, is about healthy breathing, thinking and patience.

I was a very good gymnast in my youth, particularly in high school (3rd in Nassau County and 26th in the state of NY in floor-exercise), and with that, a dancer since that was part of the sport.  I hurt myself in spring training in college and after my first laminectomy at age 19, I went on to study ballet as an adult, in my 20's and early 30's.... I was the youngest in my class. I loved it, because it was all about balance and poise... and I was very good at it.

1974, Baldwin Junior High
Today, I was not very good at either balance nor poise, however, I gave myself a break and told myself that if I keep coming back, within a couple of months, I should be able to stay on my yoga mat and not have every muscle in my body shake from shock.  I was proud of myself for even going, knowing that I would be the "weakest link" in the class.  Frankly, I did feel a twinge of embarrassment, but only fleeting and very quickly I was fine with where I was and even began to own it and embrace it and still love myself.  In this one class, I wanted to laugh at myself and then when stretching my body and opening it up, I felt like crying... I felt the loss for the time I have ignored it and it was sort of a coming home to it.  It's as if I have deprived myself of such an intsrumental element to my happiness and well being.

The teacher was amazing, gentle, supportive, helpful and young.  The other women in the class were younger than me too.  I laughed as I felt that pesky ego come into play, wanting to attach a sign to my back that said,  "I used to be a gymnast ya know, a dancer, the best in some places and I could do back flips from here to kingdom come." and then, I held that thought in an embrace of acceptance, like a sulking child, and it dissipated, rather quickly.  I also wanted to laugh when I saw myself flailing from a yoga pose, like a drunk person trying to walk a tight rope.

These days, I don't need to be better than anyone else, because I've learned that that kind of competition isn't something that makes me happy.  Let's face it, even the most humble of us feel an urge to compete on some level, but that can be healthy and used as a tool to inspire us and keep us going.

The class today was so much more than yoga. It was a reminder to see age for what it really is. A present, a rite of passage, a privilege and a beautiful undying lust for life. An old person's soul is no less valuable than a young person's soul... they are the same, just situated on different timelines, heading in the same life from that place...and learning how to be present for each stage of the process.

Today was a gift, and I got to reunite with someone very special, who still needs love and attention,  inside and out...and I'm not embarrassed to say that that person, was me.  I hope if you're reading this, that you will feel inspired to get out there, outside your comfort zone, and take one baby step towards reuniting with your body, mind and soul.  We're going to need to be in tip top shop to manifest and allow all the miracles that are awaiting our invitation.  It's an all around alignment  - with my body, the abundance in the universe and all that I know to be true of self-love and self-care.

Please feel free to share what you did or are going to do, to show the world that you love the amazing person you are, right this very minute,  in the comments below.

May beauty and wisdom light your path, always.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What are Artists Starving For?

Ever think about what exactly a starving artist is?  I have and recently I thought a little deeper about it in regard to my own life as an artist.  Usually when we hear that someone is a starving artist we think that they are poor, "starving" and scrounging around all in the name of art.  However, that could be anybody, struggling to make ends meet, whether they are an artist or not.  I thought about the definition of 'starving' - and when I took away the literal meaning in regard to food, I wondered what it meant when it came to artists.  Of course, this is just one point of view, mine, and for right everything else changes, that could change too.  (Now that the disclaimer is out of the way...)

I see starving as a longing, a thirst for something and as an artist I realize that it is simply the need to create.  I remember, when I was a full time musician, reading about artists and that they need to have tumult in their lives in order to create since it is that place that stirs their creativity (according to this article I read). I was so upset about this and thought I might be doomed for a life of angst and unhappiness... it was as if it were an excuse to be unhappy... so that I could create.  And, I do agree with the notion that there needs to be something unsettling on some level in order to create our best creations.  However, this brings me back to the concept of starving.  One can be totally content in their lives, esthetically anyway, and internally, if they are not creating, they feel a void.... a thirst that is not quenched.  And interestingly, though the artist is rewarded by either acclaim or in monetary ways, I am not convinced that a true artist is ever satisfied with that... which is where the turmoil lies within and could be the very place from which we create.   After all, Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin and so many more were never satisfied and thank goodness they weren't.

 I am referring to certain people who are called "artists" but I do believe that we are all artists... in fact, I think that artists can be interchanged with the word "human" since we all are creating something.... whether it be numbers, teaching, healing, cures, paintings, photographs, music, etc....
In the end, I believe, the reason we 'starve' for creation is because it is inherent to desire to feel purposeful.

I have written many songs from break ups, falling in love, falling out of love, my views on politics, my anger and sadness and it took quite a bit of time before I started the practice of writing songs that actually had a happy sentiment.   And in all honesty, I really had to push myself to write songs from a loving place...and even now, after the hundreds of songs I've written I can safely say the songs written from a painful place outnumber the happy songs by far.  And... I can only surmise that the reason for this is that when I was happy, I felt a lesser need to express because I was more in the moment of living and not feeling that need as deeply to express any pain.  I am still learning how to express myself in positive ways.... it is rare, but it does happen, when lyrics will float into my head to express some pain that I am experiencing... usually, I just write about 2 lines and then I ask myself, what is it that I want to contribute to this world.  It is then that I realize that I don't want to add to the misery or suffering... at least, not without some essence of hope and the act of overcoming pain because pain is inevitable... but I have a choice as to how to deal with it.

My husband painting in nature.
My husband is a successful engineer, and would hardly call himself an artist.  However, he is probably more of an artist than me.  Though he enjoys his engineering work, his passion and essence is so incredibly obvious when he is painting or wood working...and what I'm about to say is not just because I am his wife, but because it it true.... his artwork is astounding.  And more than once, I have copped an angle of a photograph because his 'eye' is also amazing for composition.  I use him as an example.... because I think he represents us all... and confirms my belief that we are all artists.

So... if you are starving... chances are the act of creating will fulfill that void, until the next time you feel the need to create.... and the next time.... and thank goodness for that... because satisfaction is overrated and unsettling.   I guess we're all in this together... but hardly starving... but thriving and desiring to contribute, in any way that "almost" fulfills us....and the world.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Beauty and Wisdom, The Last Generation

516B5leJ4pL. SX258 BO1,204,203,200  Beauty and Wisdom, The Last GenerationAfter four years of photographing and interviewing women in beauty parlors all over the country, the book of Beauty and Wisdom was released on at the end of this past year.
The reception has been wonderful and while I had hoped and expected women to relate to it I have experienced a surprisingly overwhelming response from men.  I have given two talks so far this year and it has touched me deeply that when it came time for the Q & A section of those talks, it was mostly men asking questions and at the end of those talks they approached me to convey their gratitude and were pleased that someone was covering or rather, uncovering, this topic of agelessness in a culture that concentrates mainly on its youth. In fact, it was mostly men that bought the books!
I was introduced as the photojournalist who traveled around the country photographing women at their weekly hair appointments. They didn’t know what to expect but I sensed that they thought this was going to be a whimsical talk about older women in salons and it reminded me that it was just like that for me before I walked into the first salon to photograph for the Beauty and Wisdom project. It was interesting to see the transformation which took place for me, also occurred for them.
I started the talks with a short movie I created for the presentation:
It presented many of the photos from the book and exhibit set to the music of Joe Cocker’s “You are So Beautiful.”  There were chuckles at some of the photos, but I could tell these chuckles were filled with love, respect and sensitivity. They weren’t making fun of the photos, they were enjoying, as I did, being voyeurs into what was considered a sacred ritual of sorts for many women of that generation and realizing that it was anything but frivolity.
In most cases, these women attended the salon as a necessity since at the time they could not reproduce their hairstyles by themselves.  In fact, many of the styles from the past are no longer taught in salon schools. Attending their weekly appointments provided connection and relaxation while beautifying.  And, as one of the women who shared at my talk noted, the salon was also a place where ‘underground’ information was shared at a time where certain circumstances were to be kept secret or thought of as taboo. This was a special time, women helping women at a time of need and sharing in elation as well as sorrow.
This generation of women (and hairstyles) is fading.  I have lost three of my models in the last four years.  Perhaps someday in the not too distant future, these salons that cater to the patrons of the once-a-week beauty parlor ritual, will be obsolete, but the wisdom and paths that they paved for future generations will not be. I hope they know how much they contributed and continue to contribute to so many of us.
If I had to do it over again, I would spend more time talking with the women about their lives, more in depth. I wanted to honor their time at the salon as they set it aside and I didn’t want to invade on their privacy. They agreed to let me take their photo and I didn’t want to take up too much of their appointment asking them questions. Some were more conversational than others, but they all had beautiful and wise insight to share as well as the women who contributed to the book in writing, also had beautiful and wise insights to share.
What I learned was that when I get the opportunity to speak with an elder, to ask questions about their lives, I will.  I once heard that a good question you can ask your elder is, “what was one difficult time of your life and what did you learn from it?”  This is where the wisdom gets juicy and the gap between generations lessens.  We start realizing that even though this person is older, they experience their own trials and tribulations, just as a teen or twenty-something…or fifty-something…. and they have the uncanny ability to offer some kind of gem of wisdom that will remind us that we are all connected and valuable, no matter what age.  The gems of wisdom shared are invisible reminders for difficult times.  Our elders have more wisdom than most and our culture would greatly benefit from giving them visibility and a platform to hear their wise voices. I offer an alternative to how aging and beauty is perceived and hope that you will take the cue from the women in my project and choose to age fearlessly and gracefully, with no regrets, all at the same time.
I’ll close with this quote from Debbie J. Johnson, contributing author to Beauty and Wisdom:
“I am so grateful to be reminded of the true beauty of age and wisdom and of a time-honored tradition that shaped our world more than we will probably ever know. It has reminded me that nature demonstrates beauty in so many ways. The firm, tight petals of the rose bud are indeed beautiful, but we all await the real beauty, as time unfolds, when the petals reveal the fullness of the bloom.”

Link to Article on Changing Aging, click here -->  The Last Generation

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Granny Club

 My good friend Karen recently bought my Beauty and Wisdom book for her granddaughter for Christmas and I was so touched I wanted to share her story.  Here is the email she sent me.
Karen and Mini

I want to give one to my granddaughter.  We have a thing about what we call "The Granny Club."  It's kind of like a beauty and wisdom joke in its own way. 

Granny KB:  "You have to brush your hair because you haven't since you went swimming and if you go out to dinner looking like that I could get kicked out of "The Granny Club." 

For years, Micol thought there really was a Granny Club and cried when she heard the truth.  I felt awful but we have made a big joke out of it as the years have passed.   
Micol is the only person who cuts my hair for some years now so, in a sense, she is my stylist!  I thought it would empower her to think she could do something so important and using scissors too.  But in fact it is a tender and empowering thing for me too--like going to the salon.  She says my hair is beautiful and she loves the "silver parts"!  She's messed up a couple of times but with my hair it doesn't really matter.  She loves to do it.  Funny, huh?  I think she will like your book very much.  

Thank you Karen, I am so honored to have my book given to your sweet granddaughter...  Micol obviously already possesses so much beauty and wisdom!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I am accountable for deleting my post on accountability!

Yep, I just deleted my somewhat lengthy post on accountability.  I opened it up to edit it, so that I could add a very crucial part that I left out.

I guess that this post will make sense to whomever read the last post.... so.....

Between the time Luna ran out of Janin Acres and the other day, when I saw the woman whose dog scared Luna, Luna had major knee surgery and was out of commission for 4 months healing.  Her let was already hurting (as I mentioned in the ghost post), so after bolting out of the walking area, that put her over the top and after, healing, physical therapy and  many dollars later, she is doing very well.  If fact, the first time I let her off the lead to play with another dog was the day I met the woman who provided for me, an opportunity to take responsibility for what happened.

And there you have it...  hope this makes sense and next time, I will not edit the way I just did and lost the entire post!   This accountability sure is humbling....

Til next time!

Photo:  Beautiful tree in the mist at Janin Acres, the day I finally met my could be imagined nemesis!