About Liz Gray

Loves to write! Writes at: http://u2areloved.com (Just a Jesus Girl who is also inspired by the music of U2) https://lizlogic.wordpress.com (Life is complicated; then there's Liz) http://writersreflect.com (This writer's journey; what's your story?)

Unprecedented: Voting for THIS President — November 8, 2016

Hooray! It’s here! It’s Election Day and the day we’ve been wanting to be over, is:

Almost Over

First, a disclaimer: I DON’T have a horse in this race. My person was out months ago. My heart still hurts, but like Rose on the sinking Titanic, it will simply go on, despite the uncertainty principal that awaits all of us come 2017.

This has been a hard year for me as I’ve watched the politics delve deep down from the gutter to the sewer then the swam, perhaps even Hell itself.

So it’s with no guilt or shame I tell you this: I took my 11-year old son to both a Trump and a Clinton rally yesterday. There are several reasons why:

  1. We are homeschoolers. This is Civics 101, American History, Sociology, and perhaps even Psychology at it’s very finest as far being a teachable moment.
  1. I am a shutterbug. Photography is my hobby. I wanted to see if I could capture some American history and personal history.

dsc03371  DSC03376.jpg

(Liz obsesses more over lenses then candidates!!)

  1. I am an adventurer. I will drop just about anything, to go anywhere, if I think there will be interesting people, concerned people, beautiful scenery, unusual things/people, natural things, historic moments. I saw a lot of this yesterday.
  1. I have my personal biases, yes. So do you. But I am also open-minded! Did you know you can retain your principals and core beliefs but still mingle with other people that believe, behave, and vote differently than you? In fact, sometimes you can even love them anyway.  I plan to teach my child this, otherwise our country really is doomed.

I’ve spent a lot of time this year studying, web-surfing, worrying, fretting, whining, discussing, and then accepting and denying the choices that confront us. In the end, I too have to deal with the ultimate Sophie’s Choice that will forever alter our country. That’s an enormous responsibility to shoulder. You have the same burden. Our main choices seem so fundamentally flawed to me, and the smaller choices seem hopeless.

I’ve conversed and debated this year with everyone from personal to church to online friends, neighbors, as well as immediate and extended family. I’ve talked with a range of folks, from procrastinators to prognosticators. And I’ve come to a few conclusions.

There are a multitude of reasons we vote. All are valid, in the hearts and minds of those who cast them.   These are some of the reasons I’ve seen and heard this year, as to why we vote:

Principals: Certainly our principals guide us more than just about any other factor as to why we vote. The issues we care so deeply about are what drive our very lives. We are so divided because our principals our at war with other. Think about your “core” principals that are deal-breakers as far as the opposing candidates. How is our country going to mend, IF we can’t even listen to those that believe the polar opposite?

Even the word compromise is politically charged because some people believe you should always compromise, and others think you never should. Yikes, how does a country survive with that? How do you run your own family? Are other view points allowed?   If your “person” wins, are you willing to respect, even defend the other side’s right to believe differently?   I’ll say it again, we can never reconcile opposing principals if we totally lose our ability to listen.

DSC03440.jpg

God bless our Secret Service

Pragmatism: One thing I’ve heard a lot this year. Well, I can’t vote for him/her (because of ssues A,B,C,D, etc), so I’m going to HAVE to vote for her/him.   It’s the “lesser of two evils” argument. This one is a challenge for me. At least with family members, and a few close friends, I have asked how to do they comfortably vote for Clinton despite the email scandals (being above the law), lying to the public (Ben-Ghazi), the pay-for-play schemes related to the Clinton Foundation etc. And much more, but that’s enough for this paragraph.

I have also asked my Republican friends how in the world do you vote for Trump? Someone who is so hot-headed, insults women, other ethnicities, the handicapped, the flat-chested, the “ugly”, the list goes on.   How do you say you vote “principals” over name-calling, insulting, temper tantrums, and often an inconsistent core principals on every single issue. If you vote principals first, than how in the world do you throw out character?

And because I have taken these heated discussions to many over the past few months, I have received heat that often feels like a beating from BOTH sides. But I did this not to berate, condemn, or alienate those I love from me. I did this because I HAD to understand from a different viewpoint other then my own, how they came to their conclusion as I struggled mightily with my own decision.

 Protest: I think this would kind of fall in the category: Pragmatism-taken-to-an-extreme. Or perhaps principal. When one candidate seems so detestable, that you do everything in your power to send a message to the other person, and/or party. Or perhaps you dislike both candidates, so you pick the he or she that have an infinitesimal chance of winning, but you’ll sleep good with your own soul at least.

Believe me, I totally get that!

DSC03555.jpg

We didn’t quite make it in Reynolds Colliseum last night, but we did huddle outside at 1 am with several hundred other happy excited Clinton supporters.

Earlier that day, we saw the kindest people, both the longest lenses, buses, and neckties I’ve ever seen, and we found a quarter and a nickelon the ground as we walked out.

Protection: Fear of terror attacks.   Fear of gun violence. Fear of losing the freedom to defend one’s self/family. Fear of government overreach. Black lives. Blue lives. Keeping our own money.   Not losing our benefits. Our borders. Our national security.   Veterans. Syrian refugees. The autonomy of one’s body. The lives of the unborn.   These too are just a sampling of hot-button issues that we are passionate about protecting. And as you can see, even that which we should protect also divides us. Because sadly, in our flawed human nature, we are divided as to which kind of person do we protect. In our defective humanity, we assign a hierarchical value to people, swayed by our beliefs.   For some of us, we compromise, even sacrifice a lot of principal, and even lay down our pragmatism, and vote simply who will best protect my family, myself, my country, and the issues I care about?

 Popularity: We also grow passionate because politicians tickle our burning ears with that which we want to hear. They justify our inner anger and teach us it’s acceptable to let it out. Or is it? Perhaps we decry racism and then vote solely on race, or sexism and vote solely on gender. It happens in both parties to all genders. Popularity comes with perks. Maybe it’s getting to see Beyonce or or Lady Gaga or Bon Jovi for free. Free concerts, free college? Hey, that’s cool! Or perhaps it’s “We’re mad as hell, and we are DEFINITELY not going to take it anymore. We are Taxed Enough Already!” The corruption stops here.   But will it? Is either side capable of being totally transparent? Is either side truly honest?   And will either side deliver on their promises? Or are we simply voting, knowing they won’t, but it sure sounds good!

The hardest part of this election for me is that I truly want to vote FOR someone, and FOR something I believe in, not AGAINST someone else, and things I oppose. I want a person of integrity that truly believes the values they espouse, not just say they do. I haven’t found that candidate this year.

I finally had to vote on one core belief, and one belief only:

Prayerfully: There’s a melody I keep hearing in my head today. It’s from the U2 song “Ultraviolet”:

Oh– Sometimes I feel like I don’t know

Sometimes I feel like checkin’ out

I want to get it wrong

I can’t always be strong,

and love—it won’t be long……

So today–I’m praying as I settle my soul with the vote I cast.   I don’t want to actually get it wrong (but somehow feel I will). I want to be wrong about whoever wins. Because I want our country to heal more than I want to be right. I just do. Call me a mostly-conservative pacifist who just crazy loves her compassionate liberal friends as much she loves her loving evangelical conservative friends. I don’t know. I just want to have peace in my heart. And I want our country to just be okay. This peace! It’s the very thing that has soooo eluded me this election.

Perhaps some of you feel the same way.   I’ve never cared so much and felt like I had so little to choose from. You see, I love America so much.   Every day of my life, even the worst horrible days have still been slightly awesome days. Because the next day I always woke up with the freedom to choose differently. Above all, I don’t want to lose that.

And I want all those I’ve debated with, talked with, argued with this year—well, I need you to know something.   I saw this gem of wisdom on a bumper sticker. It’s been my favorite of the entire campaign season:

I love you. And I vote.

Today is our day America. This is the day WE decide. I pray you will consider this one question above all others. By tomorrow (most likely), like it or not, we WILL have a new President. Either “She” or “He” will win. So in light of that:

Will you still be the same person tomorrow, that you are today?

I know I will. I already know I’ll wake up a bit disappointed because I feel we are a nation in decline, we’ve lost our compass on how to deal with each other. I feel we have become selfish. We want what WE WANT, and we don’t want the other side to have what they want because they are wrong! We see our lives only through the prism of what the “bad guys” have done to us.

People are truly frustrated and angry over political decisions that have impacted our lives. Real people are hurting financially, facing employment challenges, have retirement concerns, or worry that they can even safely live due to their geography or skin color. Though much of our frustration is indeed justified, the way we treat one another is not.

This blog contains no answers. Only observations. But it is written in the utmost hope that you WILL vote. That you will consider things from all the perspectives you possibly possess. And I pray that you too will pray for both candidates and our nation as one seeks our confidence in their ability to lead us. Know this: we are not electing a king or queen. I believe we serve a higher power, we answer to a higher law, and we ought to respond to all who are around us with a higher love.  

Come hell or high-water, him or her, we already have the authority, the power, and the potential to live as good, kind, compassionate, citizens who have the opportunity, daresay I, the responsibility to serve our great country!

We CAN be the hope and light for others to see. We can be the catalysts in our communities and families that truly change our world for the better. These are not platitudes, these are promises for those that choose to live a life of self-sacrificing love.

When you go to the polls today (if you haven’t already voted), I PRAY you see the faces of those around you. Pray for them. Send them good mental vibes. Be neighborly.   May you be gentle with yourself and gracious in your interactions with others.

And despite America’s problems and divisions, we are still great, specifically because so many of us truly are good.   Let’s keep it that way, okay?

It’s Election Day. Vote and may it be well with your soul.

God bless America!!!!

 

Liz’s Favorite Candidate in 2016

img_3850

Liz and NC Governor Pat McCrory — December 19,  2015

img_6183

My son met Governor McCrory December 10, 2015

For those who care about HB2, this is worth pondering:

https://governor.nc.gov/press-release/governor-mccrory-takes-action-protect-privacy-and-equality

 

Things I Experienced While Running Away

img_9085-2

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  ― Søren Kierkegaard

(Morning view where Liz and Marley like to run…okay, walk usually)

    It had to happen. I had to do it.

I’m talking about running. It’s been too long. You know when it’s time? When the earth’s gravitational force suddenly doubles.

You look in the mirror and see the pudge you’ve been avoiding. Tired eyes. A face that could use a lift.   An attitude that often hovers between exhaustion and who cares? Shabby clothes accessorized with a heavy dose of apathy.

I was just about to take a nap. After all, I’d earned it. Moments earlier I had daftly slid dinner out of a box and into the oven and had just plopped onto the couch after another repetitious day of exhaustion battling the minute by minute necessary chores and emergencies called life. You know what I’m talking about. You have those days too.

But instead, a rare divine moment of alchemy overtake me. That inner whisper that says, “GET UP (you sloth)!” That and the soft sadness of my dog’s whimpering. Oh, the not-so-subtle guilt of my lab’s droopy eyes and hopeful but pouty mouth.

     Fine then! I exerted a small amount of supernatural strength and laced up my running shoes. These suck. They hurt my feet and need replacing. Anyway.

Grab the poopy bags. In my case, it’s a minimum of a dozen; running with labs requires a bit of extra preparation.   Collar. Leash. Quick sips of water. Tunes. Keys. Lock door. Check. Slam door. Go!

Put something on with 4/4 beat and start pounding. It hurts. I don’t seem to have a regular rhythm or routine to running these days. It was the 2nd time in a week, but also in about six months as well.

So consistency is not my strong suit. What can I say? Keep going Liz I tell myself.

A few houses later I drift past my neighbor’s house. Her daughter will marry this weekend. Bless them I think. So busy I bet. Time to keep going. A few seconds later I float past another neighbor’s home with two dogs who speak in the language that only dogs know. They announce loudly, “HEY! IT’S MARLEY AND LIZ! DOES ANYONE IN THE HOUSE HEAR ME? IT’S MARLEY AND LIZ!”   I’m tempted to stop and go pet them. Better not. That’d be the end of tonight’s workout.

Huffing and puffing, I make it to the end of block one. YES! The next ten houses is straight down hill. I’m cruising to a little John Reuben singing Bobble Head.

     “Let me see your neck neck bobbing with the vertical fist. You put the two together and it goes like this.”

Christian rap. It’s the only kind I can tolerate. I feel kind of like a bada** listening to it.   When I was running, I knew I would have to write about it later. I knew right then and there I would at some point use the substitute word bada** because I don’t have the literary courage to say well…you know the real word.

I’ve now gone straight down the vertical hill bobbing with my horizontal fist pulling my dog who also doubles as my resistance trainer.  Ok, now I’m getting into it a tiny bit. Just keep going I tell myself. Like the wise Clownfish sage Dory who is forever embedded into our collective subconscience with her exuberant message:

     Just Keep Swimming

     Because that’s what I’m doing, metaphorically speaking. I’m swimming against the tides of life most days it seems.

Technology that overwhelms us with it’s incessant “reply ASAP” feeling. Or more frustratingly frequent: websites that give me the FREEZE OUT. Passwords that I know by heart suddenly don’t work. Pages don’t load.   Email I don’t have time for or read.  People I should but don’t reply to.  News doesn’t ring true. Trolls say mean things. Things disappear. And then fall apart.     Yeah, and that’s just my digital life.

So I keep going. Running. I’m playing a mental game I played in my early twenties when my first son had incredible colic. I used to run with a Walkman CD player on my hand like a pizza delivery man so it wouldn’t skip.

I’d run away. I’d run away from the noise.

I’d run from the responsibilities I didn’t think I could handle for one more day.

I’d run far, far away from the stress and go to the imaginary place in my head where everything is copacetic and cool. In this place in my head, people agree and life isn’t determined by income, time constraints, or other people’s desires. In fact there aren’t even voices, just faces. And music. And animals. And just this peacefulness.   I admit, it’s kind of a selfish utopia.   And though I always knew it didn’t really exist, it always felt so good to be running towards it, striving, endlessly striving to find it.

I’m about ¾ of a mile now. Not that far, but I’ve already thought more thoughts then steps travelled. This much I know is true.

I’m running away again. I’m running away from Hillary. I’m running away from Donald. I’m running away from ALL THAT because I’m so tired of hearing about it, thinking about it, and in shreds as what to do about it.

       I run thinking if I just run far enough and hard enough I might possibly be able to run out of this spare tire that is causing serious bladder inconvenience. I mean really. You throw a tire on a water balloon and see which object survives.

       I’m running away from my bullet-point two-page To Do List that I still haven’t gotten through from Monday. I’m running from all the responsibilities and future things I don’t know if I can handle. I’m trying not to run while amoritizing the remainder of my mortgage while simultaneously figuring out our emergency equity thanks to rising home values.   Still, worry thoughts creep in. I shoo these thoughts away with my hand while flying down hill again. My dog is so lucky. He thinks of none of this. He just breathes the cool air and keeps running.

A weird thing happens next. As I literally swat away my pesky thoughts, a small missile hits me in the forehead. At least that’s what it feels like. It’s a bug; who knows what kind? Clearly an armor-shelled kind like a beetle or something. I silently thank God for not allowing him to fly into my open mouth. That would’ve scarred me for life.

Still stepping out. Next stop. A teenage girl is melded into her boyfriend against a car under the street light in an intimate embrace. Oh yeah. I remember. I was young once. Slow down sweetheart I think.   It only gets harder from here. Then harder still. Enjoy. Don’t rush. You’ll be grown sooner than you think.

Soon, I’m by the house that always dries their clothes at night. My goodness! They use the best dryer sheets! It pours out of their dryer vent and perfumes at least three yards. It smells so clean and pure. At this moment I’m listening to U2’s “Lady With The Spinning Head” at top volume, an absolute running favorite of mine. I smell this and close my eyes and suddenly I’m six years old again. I’m running through sheets in a clothes line in a little dress with my wavy hair blowing and shoeless feet. I’m not really here I imagine. We are all just whispers in someone else’s dream. I’m breathing better. I feel the rope of anxiety releasing a bit from my neck.   It’s all going to be okay I think. At least I hope it will be.

It’s totally dark now. I always run at night since my first free moment from responsibility rarely falls before sunset. Anyway, I hit a dark patch for a while, and then I find myself under a tree arched over the sidewalk. A man with a jet black dog has suddenly appeared. I yank out my earphones as I realize he’s been talking to me for a while. I catch the end of his sentence: “We’ve been waiting for a while for you.”

I’m not alarmed. It’s not the way it sounds, but I had to quickly transition from the music-lined utopia in my head to absorb and comprehend what he meant.   Then I got it. His dog was as excited to meet my dog and I, as much as my dog was jazzed about meeting the two of them.

Anytime I come to a complete HALT after running hard, I sort of feel like my heart might explode, but mostly I was trying to just be cool as I didn’t want this neighbor I’ve not met yet to have to call 911 and deal with two rambunctious dogs.

We chat and laugh a bit over the crazy antics of excited dogs. Now I’m glad it’s nearly pitch dark. Like I said earlier, spare tire issues are seriously annoying me here! I need to get home to make the round-the-block bathroom trip again.

Home again and quick pit stop then it’s out the door to make another neighborhood orbit. It’s easier this time. Every house left behind is another step towards victory, another step in the right direction. I’m about to complete my second lap. I’m looking down focused on breathing mesmerized by my tall shadows under the streetlights. I’m skinnier when I’m fifteen feet tall. I like it like this and…..

     JESUS! I look up. Just standing there is a skeleton in a hoodie with a scythe in his hand. Seriously, I said JESUS when I saw this because that is the quickest best prayer you can ever pray when you have your wits scared out of you.

It was only a few feet from the sidewalk.   Out of the corner of one eye, I saw a glimpse of something as I was chasing after my own shadow. So I looked up. As I approached the darkened house with porch lights turned off, the dark shadowy figure seemed to come out of nowhere. Don’t panic! It’s just a skelly with a scythe–but it’s not real! The not real part took a nanosecond or two to click in. It was just a life-size Halloween decoration a few feet away from their front porch..a few days early.

See, Liz? I told you it was a good idea that you learn to run faster. Besides it was just a decoration. I did a double take. It hadn’t moved…. yet. But we live in a weird world these days. I double checked with my dog. He wasn’t alarmed. He was still pacing himself one dog’s length ahead of me, so it must be okay.

Life and death. Love and loss. Alone, yet not.  Cool breeze mixed with hot sweat.   Fear and hope and faith. Reality and dreamland.  Our only true constant we navigate by is change. Time passed and time still to go.   Miles still to run and words still to write, I press on. Ever onward.

 

 

 

Not Necessarily Namaste — Lessons from Yoga Barbie

Yoga girl sunset     YAY! It’s Friday and that means it’s Yoga Day in Liz’s world. Fridays, I decided are to be my “down days” from running and hitting it hard at the gym during the week.   It’s a physical reward, like getting a massage after working hard all month.

I’ve been on a roll recently, but I know from past experience if I don’t build in some gentler workout days, I’m liable to crash and burn. So yoga makes sense as an alternative to running everyday. So on Yoga Day, my goal today was to cleanse my seven chakras, elongate my muscles and relax my mind.   At least that was the plan.

This is what really happened:

I awake just before 7 am. I scurry downstairs in a caffeine-deprived stupor because on Yoga Day you should only drink water. Lots of water. No time for the filtered pure stuff. Just rinse out a dirty glass from the sink super quick and guzzle the tap. I feed our three cats and let the dog out so I can begin.

Time to get started. I roll out my yoga mat and live-stream Yoga Now on TV. Ah, so many choices. This one looks good: Total Body Super Core Challenge– 58 minutes.

The first thing I notice is the lovely young serene blond-haired blue-eyed yoga instructor; she is the epitome of tranquility. Her voice is a steady soft low, just a few decibles above a whisper. If I wasn’t being mindful, I’d probably shout, “What’s that?” or “Come again?”

Hurdle one: I will not compare my body to that of a woman half my age who is probably a trust-fund graduate student who’s probably never birthed children and has been vegan and well, stretchy, for most of her life. No, today I will take the hat of judgment off my body, and just keep my eyes focused gently on my teacher for today.

So we start with a few cleansing breaths before easing into Chaturanga Dandasana. Basically, that’s the snobby Indian way of saying planking. And although I was nearly comatose only moments ago under jersey cotton sheets and down comforters, I’m suddenly sweating profusely as I try to align myself parallel to the floor in order to strengthen my core.

The first thing I notice is just how much dog hair is literally everywhere; there’s entire could-be-sweaters hiding out under all the couches and TV stand.   And now thru my Pranayama breathing, I realize my yoga mat actually smells more like a dog than even my dog does.

So as I gently plank myself, I turn my gaze ever so softly towards the TV to make sure I’m still in sync with Yoga Barbie. She’s so peaceful I think. Her eyes are so soft, like she’s just waking from a great dream.

Well, no wonder I think to myself. My gosh! Look at that view!

Her mat floats atop short manicured green grass, that looks soft as carpet. It’s positioned exactly at the midpoint between two magnificent palm trees with an emerald green ocean in the distance, also proportionately placed between two mountains. The sun is just rising. In her world there are no vehicles zooming by, only tropical birds singing their morning songs.

In my world, I hear a humming dishwasher, a distant washing machine, and creaky plumbing sounds. Soon my husband plunks down the stairs before leaving for work. He asks me a question related to taxes and bills in a loud voice.   Talk about a harshed mellow. “Can we talk about this later?” I reply while trying to tune out all distractions.

I press on thru the planking so I can hurry up and get to Downward Dog which would be more appropriately named if it were called Upword Butt. Truly, that’s what it actually is.   You are making an offering, a sun salutation of sorts to the world that silently screams: This is my butt. Consider the view as a double sunrise.  Please deal with it and above all, leave me alone and don’t speak to me while I do this.

I alternate between Upward Butt and Painful Plank while Ujjayi breathing a few dozen more times. That’s where I steal some of the breath from the ocean directly behind Yoga Barbie.   I hear a fire truck siren in the distance that is growing ever closer. I briefly consider the possibility that our house is on fire so that I can wrap this up a tad quicker. My husband lets our dog back in because he’s afraid of fire trucks, so now he comes over to my side to howl closer to my ear. Oh come on! Really?!  Who’s the idiot that burns their house down on a Friday Morning?

Stop! Thoughts are like bubbles I remember. You can just pop them if they become a distraction. I mentally prick at them a few times.   Now my son has come down stairs and is telling me in detail about a video game he was playing upstairs.

I look at the clock. It’s only 7:25 am. “Why are you even up?” I ask. He normally gets up around 8. By now I’m doing some Cobra stretches to make my backbone more flexible too. I’m breathing, but if feels more like the “Ch, ch, ch, ch” I learned in Lamaze class all those years ago. I may not be doing this correctly, but hey, I’m trying.

Next, one of my cats decides to get in on the action. He’s a sweet fellow, just not today. He comes up to me and my nearby dog and bites my wrists while I pose like a dog again. I’m determined not to give up.   He’s happily purring; he just happens to want to snack on what’s currently holding me up.

I plank and stretch and breathe and soar like an airplane and reach my feet and arms far apart from each other parallel to the floor for what feels like hours. I walk my feet that are far behind me all the way to up to my hands on the floor and come straight up. I go up. And then go down again. Breathe. Stretch. Be Aware. Take up lots of space. I feel what my body is doing as my body does it. Relax. Go deeper into it. Release all thoughts. Be still.

Yes, be still

While the dog drops a saliva-covered tennis ball on your throat once you finally get to do a relaxing stretch. While you’re child asks their fifteenth question during a half minute of Child’s Pose. While the phone rings. And the sirens blare. And the door slams. And the dust-coated fur-balls rage under the couch. While your thoughts race as to how to make it all stop just for one freaking moment!

Yes be still and know: That life balance is not easy.   That trying to take care of our self is a concept we delude our selves into believing that is reserved only for those who have time. Or energy. We will try harder when we have a little more of each. Time. Energy. Later. We’ll get around to doing this eventually–later.

Except that it doesn’t. Later never comes.

 Our distractions of choice increase exponentially by the day. As moms, all the hats we wear, it actually is hard to do anything at all for our self sometimes. Much less, do it alone in order to do it well!

But as a Master Yoda once taught me: There is no try. There is only do or do not.

So I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to do it scared and I’m going to do it frustrated sometimes.  I’m going to do it busy, even if it appears aadha-gadha . (That’s Indian for “half-assed” ) I’m going to do it tired and frazzled sometimes. I’m going to do it ungraceful and undignified.   Because if fifty-eight minutes of pretzel-twisting mental-cleansing Yoga Barbie taught me anything at all: I’m going to do it FINISHED.  Because that’s what counts.

We have to decide to love ourselves enough to want to cherish what God gave us so that we can serve all those others a little bit longer and a tiny bit better.   Less attitude, more strength.   We’re deciding right now to exchange our whining selves for our winning selves. Gently. One day at a time.

Just breathe, then do.

Press on all my Sisters Seeking Strength and Serenity.

Namaste’

Photo Credit:  http://food.ndtv.com/health/the-ultimate-full-body-workout-surya-namaskar-769780

A Day with MC Escher: A Lingering Love and Linear Logic

 

MCE -DrawingHands

“Drawing Hands” — MC Escher 1948

Last month I took my son and his young friend to see the MC Escher exhibit at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh as part of our homeschool experience. First thing I noticed: THE ENTIRE PARKING LOT WAS PACKED! Hundred of parking spaces and not a single empty space. Wait, what? I’m at an art museum and having to drive around and around just to find a space? THIS IS AWESOME!!

We finally parked and purchased our tickets. I soon learned this was the largest exhibit ever in the world on display of MC Escher’s work in one place. It was certainly the biggest traveling museum exhibit I have ever attended. We spent hours looking, but I could’ve spent days. Easily.

In my photography club I’ve been learning about the Elements of Design (line, texture, shape, form, pattern, color). With Escher, he effortlessly expands on those elements and adds things like:

  • logic
  • precision
  • pattern
  • reflection
  • perpetual motion, still life, and sometimes a blending of the two

Perhaps what attracts so many people to his work is his unique gift of mathematically capturing concepts such as:

  • the finite and the infinite
  • the abstract and the obvious
  • symmetry
  • the proof of geometry

These are all awesome. But my favorite? Gravity Tricks!

Escher doesn’t create illusion, so much as bend converging realities. I keep studying how MCE defies gravity in his work. I study Drawing Hands where 3D and 2D overlap Hand or Circle Limit IV where the infinite is captured precisely by proportionately repeating patterns that grow ever smaller around the perimeter of a circle. MCE shows us in in Metamorphosis I how objects morph from collective to individual with no discernable delineation. Time seems fold in upon itself as large becomes small, then large, then small again. How do you even think like this, much less accurately draw it?

I look around. A beautiful deaf gentleman and his sweetheart are beside me. He is smiling, and tearing up and overcome with emotion. Their hands are fluttering in a beautiful synchronicity that speaks of a wisdom and secret language open in plain sight I don’t possess and am not privy to, though I wish I was. They never stop talking. In this beautiful space called silence, they are the loudest people I’ve ever seen! I mean, they just won’t shut up. They can’t. They have delved deeper into this than I even I get to go. It makes me want to cry.

My kids with me have finished up before I have. That’s okay. They are immersed in thoughts on a bench and are silently sketching their own thoughts–their own dreams and realities. Art is such a beautiful thing.   I keep perusing.

Seeing photos of Escher as a young man, a young husband, as well as his self-portraits in spheres and mirrors really moved me.  In this one, he kind of resembles Picasso I think. In this one, he kind of reminds me of Coldplay’s Chris Martin. No wait, I think I see some of me in there. Yeah, that’s me–if I were a man I think.

I look at his self-portrait in Hand with Reflecting Sphere which reflects both himself and the room he’s sitting in. But upon closer inspection, it reveals both reality and non-reality.

MCE Hand_with_Reflecting_Sphere

Hand with Reflecting Sphere” — MC Escher 1935

Those hands!! I look at mine. My goodness! Those are my hands! He has the same creases on the same life line. How is that possible?

 I look at the dates of his work.  I try to recall the history of that time. This one is dated 1924. I envision flappers dancing the night away and families gathered around their radio to hear President Coolidge speak.

Oceans away in Rome, Italy, a young Escher meets the love of his life, Jetta Umiker. While America was mass producing Model T’s, Escher was quietly drawing the beautiful towns and landscapes of Viterbo, Abruzi, Corsica, Calabria, Amalfi, and Sicili.  MCE loved Italy, but then Mussolini came to power. Escher found his fascist ideals deplorable, so he moved his family to Switzerland, and then Belgium and then ultimately settled in the Netherlands until 1941 when WWII broke out. He remained there until his death in 1970.

When he sketched, what was his work environment like? Did he hear music in his head? Did he sip some Italian vino as he drew? How does one so perfectly capture the essence of an ant or a beetle? How do you freeze in your mind the stillness of something so small as if the tiny creature had posed for a portrait? How many hours and days and weeks did he spend when he so meticulously captured the landscapes of Italy?

What must it be like to silently appreciate every detail in the vastness of a city by the sea like Atrani, Coast of Amalfi or smaller landscapes like Street in Scano to the intimate portraits of his father George. Even as his father lay dying, Escher’s portrait seems to capture every hair on his head, a visual reminder for himself and others to not forget the beauty of his father’s soul.

When he created, what did he hear? Did he tune out the world’s outer clatter and create in silence or did he immerse himself in the rhythms and melodies found in nature and find hidden symphonies that inspired him?

It’s obvious what inspired him: everything. Escher was not content to draw with flatness, but with depth and dimension. He tapped into his unique gift and learned how to draw in a way that expands and changes the way we look at things.

Escher draws us in to his work with optical tricks but quickly leads us to deeper truths. The longer you stare at his work, the more your mind continuously expands. You can’t help but be blown away when you contemplate the infinite when going around and around an endless staircase or the use of hyperbolic geometry and symmetry as you move from a large central image to an exponentially smaller one in a repeating pattern.   You can feel the deeper truth at work in your own heart the longer you look.

Perhaps it’s the tug of our own inner law of entropy at work: The uneasy awareness that settles in knowing over time, we all become small, then smaller–then gone.

When math marries imagination and memory, well–it’s a beautiful thing. As a person who is often rooted too much emotion and feeling, I feel myself breathe in utter relaxation and find a sense of calm as the linear logic of math and predictable patterns make sense.   Until it doesn’t again. Poof! Mind blown—again!

Like excellent music, I don’t think I could pinpoint a favorite MCE work; there are too many I love! But one that really touched my heart was Three Worlds. MCE explained his goal in this work was to incorporate and connect multiple realities.

MCE-Three-Worlds-I

“Three Worlds” — MC Escher — December 1955

That struck a nerve. Because this is the world where Liz resides! It’s called:

Nothing is Coincidence

and

Everything is Connected

 As someone who enjoys creating, I am most inspired by the way Escher refused to live a life of frustration constipation. (Living life doing the things that don’t interest you or motivate you). He didn’t hold back his art, or deny time for it, he let it out!

Escher seems to understand that when we create art, we leave behind something that resonates in the soul of someone else. One’s work easily transcends the length of one’s life when it has the power to connect with others. Something created can make someone else smile, or cry, or think about people or the world differently. The silence of art brings us both revelation and understanding of both the artist and ourselves.

MC Escher was known for restoring order out of chaos, be it one’s external world, or one’s internal mind. He also was a gifted genius employing techniques of beautiful precision. He found a way to visually articulate the ways that art can be composed of both math and science. Science and logic can beautifully coexist with nature and creation. As a creator, his work to me implies an understanding that he too was created. Perhaps in that vast space that lies between love and logic, vision and creation, he too found proof of God.

Official Site of MC Escher to purchase his work can be found here:  http://www.mcescher.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scrolling Past It All: Intentionally Choosing To Be Missing Out

It’s 2016 and time to make those resolutions. Hmmm….which ones should I commit to this year? Which ones will I realistically keep? Don’t think too hard about the ones I might just fail miserably at.   Or just maybe—I may succeed?

I made a list of a few things I hope to accomplish this year, but all of them can be summed up by one desire:

To better live each day and moment with intentionality, purpose, and organization.

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed in 2015 and have been dealing with some anxieties. The problem with anxiety is this; it’s like interest -– it compounds. The more you think about all that makes you anxious, the more your anxiety exponentially increases. Meanwhile, the law of entropy continues to thrive: Things fall apart—continually.  Everything decays as time passes.   Anxiety plus entropy is hard enough, but if you add procrastination to the mix?

Aye yi-yi. The triple threat of the unproductive life has arrived.

Because with each passing moment, our internal time clock knows we have one less minute to sort thru the complexities of life than we had a minute ago.

Are you stressed yet? If you’re still reading this, you’ve already lost one minute of your busy day.   You could’ve plowed thru an email or two, perhaps deleted 8 or 10 junk ones, but for whatever reason you’re still here. So I’ll try to cut to the chase.

I like to write. I’m also kinda-sorta trying to grow a photography business—I think. Or put it this way, my hobby is trying to stretch me in new directions that I’m trying to decide if I wish to pursue. While still homeschooling full-time. And working part-time, minimally, but responsibilities still beckon. Oh, and be available for a mom who is getting older. There’s also time allotted for church, scouts, sports, clubs, groups, and time invested still with grown children by attempting to know their busy schedules and still have time to hear their plans and dreams for the future.   There are chores, emails, voicemails, texts, bills, and requests. Then there are gadgets galore with menus, parts, batteries, and well….issues. It’s all too much.

I’ve been feeling this epiphany brewing in me for some time now:

I actually already know what I need to do. You probably know too.

We have to do less, in order to do more, or at least do better.

       But what to give up?

For me, I know that I know that I know: I absolutely am going to have to get off social media a lot more in 2016. I know people don’t really want, need or care to know my every whimsical thought, opinion about, or plans for “x”.   And though I love sharing so many photos, or even my writing, I have to brace myself with this fact:

       I’m overwhelmed with all that’s out there, you probably are too.

       So here we are. Three minutes gone for you, thirty for me. We have some decisions to make this year don’t we?   How now, do we spend this moment, this day that we’ve been given?

Sometimes we have to just scroll on by it all.   So much information is out there. But we have to just turn away and keep going, if we’re going to get anything done at all.   We have to not look sometimes, and do it fast.

A little less Facebook, Instagram, and Tweets? Oh well.

It’s okay if we don’t know it all. It’s not like we can fix it all anyway. It’s okay if we don’t respond to what all seems urgent. No comment does not equate to doesn’t care. It’s okay if we choose to “miss out” on the people’s news sometimes. The world isn’t going anywhere. And honestly, on some days I’d rather not know the news, be it world news or social news. I just want to live in the solitude of my cocoon for a day or so.

Call it weird. Call it antisocial. Call it worrisome. Call it intelligent. Call it rebellious.   I just call it the Liberation of Liz.

May 2016 find you at peace. Be well as you navigate your life this year and all its complex priorities.

F8th — Letting In The Right Light at the Proper Shutterspeed

1Our daily life paces at a break neck speed. Each task is like a large collection of pictures. By day’s end, our heads our spinning as we feel as though we’ve seen 5000 things. Each task, makes up the shutter speed of our life.  Each task is an allotment of our day.  Load the dishwasher, that’s 1/125th of the day.  Check a text, that’s 1/5000th.  Of course, we repeat this task a thousand times!   Got to work, now there’s a long-term exposure.  We stay busy doing many many things, all at different speeds.     We live our lives as if we are in high-speed continuous shooting mode.  But are we creating anything that lasts?

In photography when we shoot at 1/5000 of a second, not very much light comes in, even if we use a big f-stop or aperture–even with a premium lens.

So how do we accomplish all the tasks of the day with intentionality, purpose, and quality?
I suppose some of it depends on how we start and end our day, and more importantly how we transition from task to task through out:

  • Do we start each day with a quick prayer?
  • Lord, Jesus help me get thru this day.
  • Woof down our lunch and forget to pray?
  • Go to bed and rattle off our litany of prayer requests for ourselves, and then others if we have time? Perhaps an occasional utterance of gratitude?  Does this sound familiar? I know I am speaking to myself here on so many of my days.

2a

Living life this way is like going thru our day and taking a whole lot of pictures but not having enough time to edit them. We don’t have enough time to make them meaningful because we have too many to go through. Our clarity (perspective) on the totality of the sum total of all these tasks & images is hazy. When we have too much to do, our purpose for the whole batch seems to not make any sense. We’ve lost sight of the big picture, because of sheer volume of small pictures.

But there IS a better way:

LESS is MORE!!

This is our struggle: Like an over-bloated picture library, we have to DOWNSIZE the VOLUME of our tasks and then apply precision FOCUS and INTENTIONALITY to that which remains.

Like editing pictures, we have to PRIORITIZE our tasks into CATEGORIES:

 Must Do

 Ought to Do

 Could Do

 Want to Do

 Definitely Don’t Do (Not worthy of my time , harmful, keeps me from God)

3a

But how do we get to this better way?  Faith or F8th!  Faith in Jesus who can supply all of our needs!

We must pray continuously as we start, move through out or day, and end it.

In photography, a good picture results when these three things work in harmony:  aperture (how much light comes in), shutterspeed (how fast or slow the light comes in), and ISO (your camera’s sensitivity to light).

We can use some of these same elements and improve our daily life:

Son and light – Spend enough “time value” with Jesus and FOCUS on what his words mean.  How can I apply his lessons, not just read words on a page?

Speed –  “Slow down, you move to fast” — Paul Simon -59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)   We all know we have to slow down.  The key is to do it.    Unplug from media.  Take in each moment.  Linger sometimes.  Listen more.  Be present.  Breathe.

Light Sensitivity – Cultivate a teachable spirit.  Pray often.  Ask for wisdom.  Ask for help in being kinder.  Appreciate this day we’ve been given.  Love well.  And ask for divine help when it’s hard to do so.

Transition between our tasks with a gratitude prayer. Let God’s light in. It’s like opening up the aperture to our heart.

Do these things and you may accomplish less, but live more.    You may find an inconvenient truth that even some photographers already know:  Not every moment was designed to be documented, but rather written in a permanent place in our heart and savored in that sacred place.

Life is magnificent, even during the mundane tasks and the overwhelming volume and pace we’ve grown accustomed to.

On your way out the door, look up.  Check the weather.  It’s a perfect day to shoot at F8th!

4a

 

Back To The Future and Back Again

Liz and Ferarri at 16 1981-2

1980 — Liz likes to time-travel in a  Ferarri 308 GTSi

      It’s Back to The Future Day today!!  And I am totally stoked!

For me, and many of my friends, we remember the genius of the sweet and laugh-out-loud funny 1985 movie classic “Back to the Future” starring Christopher Lloyd as the quirky, creative, hyper-active  mad-scientist inventor Doc Brown and of course Michael J. Fox as the adorably frustrated Marty McFly.  We remember, like it was yesterday how McFly and mad Doc Brown had to go backwards and forwards in time in their time-traveling DeLorean to save McFly’s parents George and Louise and orchestrate their meeting and eventual marriage, otherwise Marty would never have been born.

Oh how I love that movie!  We all intuitively knew back then, we were a generation sitting on the eve of one of the biggest technology booms in history! It was fun to imagine:

Just what will the world actually be like on October 21, 2015?

Lengthy BTF header

     Ah yes, 1985.  These were the  days before I forked over my quarterly savings for an over-priced brand-name  low-fat, extra-frothy latte.  They were the days of my first job at an electronics company where I was mesmerized by a friend who had started her own word-processing business on the side.  She had just purchased an Apple MacIntosh.  I still remember her plastic-encased off-white computer.  She showed me how you can insert graphic images and do all kinds of crazy things like change fonts and the structure of a document.  No more simplified block-style letters for her.  No, she was a mover and shaker and on her way to financial independence.  I had the opportunity to join her.  I declined.  No doubt, that was a Dipsy Doodle ding-dong move.  She probably moved on to Cupertino and changed her very life I’m sure.

1985 Apple

       Making multiple trips to see that great movie, little did my child-bride twenty-year old self know that someday I would no longer be struggling to thread camera film in total darkness onto a spiral wheel in order to see a picture come to life!  Only a couple years before the movie came out, I first learned about stop-baths and f-stops.  Every camera was a manual camera then.  Whatever picture you took, well it was going to be a surprise when you finally brought it to life in the magical red room of film photography.   While I was fumbling around with film canisters and  laughing with way-ward boys in the darkrooms of high school, young Michael J. Fox was most likely finding his way too on the lots of Hollywood as he perfected his skateboarding and his characterization of McFly.

          Yes, as my love of photography was blossoming, I remember how fun it was to bring twenty four, maybe even thirty-six half-way decent prints to life on a contact sheet.  Then you pick the best ones and print a handful.  In black and white.  Because that’s as far as I got in high school.  Who knew back then that thirty years later, we would all feel like master photographers as we post 24/7 not just twenty-four or  thirty-six, but unlimited amounts of  digital selfies?  Zillions and zillions of daily photographs of our vacations, meals, kids, kittens, and various other adventures are now sent (often unfiltered and uncensored by common sense) to all of our contacts,not  contact paper, to our magical, collective social diary known as Facebook. 

       Of course the secret to the time traveling DeLorean  in the movie,  was the pièce de résistance; the flux capacitor!  I worked at an electronics company in 1985.  We had large contracts with large defense contractors–names like Northrop-Gruman, Sandia Labs, and Lockheed Martin. I figured I must be important simply by job name-association.   At twenty I was learning the process of how to make memory boards that inserted into motherboards.  You add a fan, a power supply, and a floppy 5 1/4″ disk drive, and write some hexidecimal code and VOILA!  Magic!  You now have a computer.  And though I was only two decades past wearing diapers, I thought I was one rad chick.   Never mind the fact I wasn’t an engineer and didn’t even earn $10 an hour.  I was there man!  At the beginning of this magical world that was opening up and would forever change our future.

Flux capacitor

        I remember one particular endearing geeky programmer.  He was losing his hair though he was not yet thirty and had the palest skin I’d ever seen.  I don’t think he ever spent a single hour in the sunshine.  He always had a powdered doughnut and a coke in his hand.  He was so patient with me!  Trying to teach me how to speak binary.  Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing most of the time.  It didn’t matter.  I just kinda relished in all the geek-speak and tried to absorb what little bit I could.  I could feel it, just like  the Tom Petty song:  The Future is Wide Open! The sky really was the limit!

      I couldn’t have possibly imagined then the incredible journey of marriage, three kids, multiple jobs, pets, friends, locations, and vocations I’d experience over the next thirty years.   See back then, we lived in one time zone:  The Present

      Back then, before the future, I didn’t shoot a text to my friends.  I actually picked up a clunky plastic phone and dialed them.  Ok, I admit it.  I was rich kid.  My phone actually had push buttons.  But still, my mom could hear what I was talking about because I couldn’t even leave the kitchen in the 1980s.  Yes, we pitiful ‘80s kids had those spirally leashes that kept us attached to the wall within eaves-dropping range of our parents.  We couldn’t have known then that silly phone cord would eventually serve as inspiration to GE as they would find a way to  quintuple the price of an ordinary light bulb simply by making it take a bunch of hairpin turns.  Perhaps GE executives took Edward Hammer’s CFC lightbulb to the next level because they too were fans of Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

      So here we are.  Thirty years later.  The Chicago Cubs are doing pretty darn good!  Or at least they were until this past weekend.  Don’t know if their odds are actually 100 to 1 yet, but they’ve been living with those odds for a while anyway.  One can hope.  So I hope and pray, cross my fingers, and show kindness to goats whenever I see them, to lift the Cubs Curse, I pray that at least this remaining unfulfilled promise of Back to the Future may actually still happen.

       And here I sit too, at the half century mark.  I know longer feel young enough to actually call myself young.  After all, thirty-somethings now seem like kids to me.  But I don’t feel old enough to justify those damn annoying AARP cards that keep appearing in our mailbox.   I write this as I ponder the next thirty years:

  • Will the Cubs have a World Series win by then?
  • Will people still use Facebook or will we start relating again “old school” with actual face time?
  • What new technologies will be invented that can actually improve, not further clutter our lives?

And most importantly, who will I be?  What will I become?  If I could punch the date on a time-travel DeLorean thirty years forward, what will I see?   So as we get on our daily hoverboard of choice,  and continuously romance our phones, I pray I can live like McFly did.   I”ll get plugged in–plutonium amp like and become part of my experiences.  I won’t always pic and post it, I’ll actually live it.  

When seeing the future as a someday past, it makes me ponder what do I have to do now, to keep my family intact?  Most importantly with all this technology, how do I prioritize my time to live with purpose and have a meaningful life?  How do I live and love now in case one day, I too, get to go back to the future and see it all from a past perspective?     May we all choose wisely and not miss those moments of destiny where our past and futures collide.

Happy Back to The Future Day!!