Category Archives: inspiration

the wonder of art

Some may say that the happiest place on earth is found in South Florida. I’d argue that it is wherever you happen to be standing when you see your child fall in love with art. We are a family of museum nerds. From the MoMA to roadside attractions, we’re game. When the Smithsonian American Art Museum recently reopened the Renwick Gallery we were more than willing to stand in the line stretching around the block to see the Wonder exhibit — and WOW!

Large crowds didn’t take away one iota of the amazement on the faces of my kids as they strolled through the Wonder exhibit.  Truth be told, they were even in awe of the Renwick Gallery building itself. 

Wonder Exhibit Built in 1859,  Renwick Gallery was the first purpose-built art museum in America. Over the front door the words, “Dedicated to Art,” are carved in stone. Which gives you some idea of what’s in store when you walk through the doors.

1.8 by Janet Echelman

On March 11, 2011 the earth moved, quite literally. The Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami were so powerful that the earth shifted on its axis. This resulted in a day  shortened by 1.8 millionths of a second.

Wonder Exhibit At first blush 1.8 looks like an artfully hung net with some really cool undulating lights. Then you look down at the floor, and – as my nine-year old daughter pointed out – even the carpet looks like art. We grabbed a spot on the floor, laying down with dozens of other gallery-goers, and watched the lights.  It was nice, but pretty much just that.

In a near frenzy the sixteen year old drug me over to a small plaque on the wall that changed everything. The sculpture corresponds to a map of the energy released across the Pacific Ocean during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Talk about being moved by art. It was breath-taking. In a rush all the memories of the sights after the disaster came rolling back. 

Wonder Exhibit at the Renwick GalleryDid Termites Make These?

She was sure this was some natural formation, rather than the man-made work of artist Tara Donovan. These towers are made of everyday objects we tend to miss or toss out… index cards, scotch tape. Here they become a forest for the imagination. 

Touch the Rainbow

Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to find the end of a rainbow. When in Ireland this past spring these refracted sunlight wonders were so vibrate you could almost convince me they were solid.  Standing in front of Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe the illusion is nearly as complete. The difference being that this piece is an architecturally scaled weaving rather than light dancing on particles of water. 

Wonder exhibit rainbow

Folding the Chesapeake
One of our favorite pastimes is tossing together a picnic and heading into D.C. for a few hours. Nothing beats free museums and monuments. There even worth dealing with parking – most days.
 
Among my personal favorites is the Vietnam War Memorial designed by Maya Lin.  The power of names simply carved into a reflective stone surface is moving beyond any words I have. It drives home the stark reality of loss and the impact on what is left behind. Yet, there is a peace in this place like few other places.
 
Lin has a way of taking the monumental and transforming it into moving simplicity. She did that again with her piece Folding the Chesapeake. 
Wonder Exhibit Folding the Chesapeake
Glass marbles are laid out on the floor and walks of the exhibit room. At first blush you think, ‘well this is neat… but…’ Then the docent hands you an aerial photograph of the Chesapeake Bay and you stand in awed wonder at the detail. It stretches all the way down to the small river behind our house. 
 
Like 1.8, Folding The Chesapeake has a way of humbling you. Making you feel the smallness of your humanity when standing next to nature. 
Into the Trees
Middle Fork by John Grade has been dubbed, The Tree Matrix by my kids. I sort of get that. Grade made a plaster cast of a 150 year old hemlock tree from Cascade Mountains to create this sculpture that is assembled of half a million segments of reclaimed cedar, and is nothing short of mind-blowing.   
Wonder Exhibit
If you’ve the chance to come to Washington, D.C. don’t let the long lines outside The Renwick deter you. You’ll leave with a whole new sense of wonder.

Requiem The Soundtrack

requiem the soundtrack
photo credit: Julie Cohn of Cork, Fork & Passport

The waning months of 2015 and the beginnings of 2016 were hard on the world of music and arts.  Rare voices and singular talents were lost. Bowie, Frye, Rickman… those were hard losses to take.  Each had a place in the soundtrack of my life, maybe yours too? Requiem The Soundtrack is a bit of a love letter to voices gone but still so much a part of the story.

Did you know Alan Rickman sang?

Okay, so maybe Alan didn’t sing well. He might not even be deserving of inclusion in Requiem The Soundtrack save for the fact that his voice is inextricable from my memories. Truth be told, I could listen to that luxuriously deep voice reciting tax code. You’ll forgive me for subjecting you to Johnny Depp’s screeching in Sweeney Todd… eventually. 

Bowie may have been the biggest loss. It’s a very short list of people that have had such enormous impact on music, art, fashion and culture. Our youngest daughter may have been the biggest Bowie fan I’ve ever met.

In the days following his passing there were lots of tears. Stuck in DC traffic a week after the news, Under Pressure came on the radio. Before I could turn the channel, her brother was misty-eyed. It was his favorite song too. I let them cry it out. For the span of 4:08 minutes they bonded. That was the power of Bowie in our lives.

Before we could recover enough to listen to Space Oddity the news of Glenn Frey’s passing came. This one hit me harder.

Though I’m a kid of the 80’s I’m also the child of a musician. My Dad plays dozens of instruments, shared a stage with Chuck Berry, and knows the girl in Dan Fogelberg’s song Same Old Lang Syne {he and Dan went to school together, my dad played for his dad}.  Music has always been how I connected with him. Songs from The Eagles were the first chords that bonded us, musically.

I can vividly recall sitting outside on cool nights in the California desert town where I grew up, watching him sing to my mom, “I love the way your sparking earrings lay against your skin so brown…”  She was his Witchy Woman, her spell cast from sapphire eyes under dark lashes. Frye’s voice harmonizing  with my dad’s, true magic. 

So many disappeared voices make their way onto my playlist of memory.  The Optimistic Blues of Allen Toussaint. Nobody but Townes Van Zandt should ever sing Poncho and Lefty. Down in the Boondocks they’re missing the dulcet voice of Billy Joe Royal.

As vividly as though it happened yesterday, I can remember driving down a single-lane road headed from Boston to The Cape and hearing that Amy Winehouse had died. We were in two cars and my oldest son called to be sure I didn’t need to pull over and cry. They all know how much music means to me, because it’s the same with them.

Then there are the bands that won’t ever quite be same without members that made the music; Pete de Freitas from Echo & The Bunnymen, the Chilis without Hillel and The Stooges without Dave. There is no INXS without Michael Hutchence – no matter how many reality shows they dream up.

I can think of a song for almost any milestone in my life. When I look back there seem to be a whole lot of holes where amazing talent once lived. Perhaps that’s the inevitability of aging. The beauty in that though is that those songs don’t go away. Technology these days lets us dive into the pool of memory anytime we want.

Not a day goes by where I’m not on Spotify, or offline with my collection of tunes. Music is as much a part of my everyday as it is my memories. We have a playlist for road trips, work days, house cleaning, there is even one a bunch of us put together in morbid homage to my bestie’s thyroid cancer. {for the record, she kicked cancer’s ass}

Any time I need to hear the voices of those gone, I just turn my smartphone and wireless headphones on and they live again. 

 

 

This post was inspired by weekly #VZWbuzz chats that often feature ways that technology impacts our daily lives. As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events.   All opinions – and playlists – are entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 

It’s Scary

But it's scary
photo credit: tyler s miller

 

When you’re a kid people ask you what you want to be. As we get older that simple question expands into more specific things. Where do you want to go to college?  What will you major in? How the hell are we going to pay for that?! Once adulthood hits though, it isn’t so much a question to be answered as a quest we’re on.

It wasn’t until I hit my forties {gulp} that I really felt compelled in any way to set off on that quest. For the most part what I was, was on autopilot. Wife, mother, maker of dinners, keeper of calendars, planner of trips, czarina of mismatched socks. It all just sort of happened in the way that we take in and let out a breath. You just do it.

This isn’t to say that I hadn’t accomplished anything, or was a nobody. There were things along the way that I was proud of having done, which had nothing to do with parenting or marriage. The thing is, even those things weren’t really what I would have said I wanted to be.

In all fairness I’ve wanted to be several things in my four-plus decades {again, gulp} on this rock hurling through the void. Not the least of which was a forensic pathologist.  I was a huge fan of Quincy back in the day. I went to cooking school, opened a catering business, worked in criminal investigations and higher education, learned how to paint, sold some of the photos I’ve taken, picked up a few rudimentary language skills, and traveled the world.  None of that was wholly, me.

It may be rather romantic to say that all those things were simply steps in a journey. Each getting me closer to the quest’s end. Sorry to break it to ya, but the truth is rarely ever romantic. Whether I chose to face it or not, the fact was I’d known what I wanted to be from the age of nine and that scared me.

It’s scary to want something. Truly terrifying, in fact.

What if wanting it isn’t enough? It never is.

Beyond having to work to get this thing you long for, there is the fear of never getting there no matter how hard you work. I love to sing in the car – much to the chagrin of anyone unfortunate enough to be a passenger. I know that even if I longed to be a singer, I still couldn’t carry a tune if you gave me a Birkin bag to put it in.

I can live with never singing a solo, but could I say the same if that thing I’d wanted to be since I was nine never happened? Fear is the ghost that haunts our every decision. For years I’d let it paralyze me to the point that not only would I ignore what I wanted to be, but I couldn’t even bring myself to speak the words to another living soul.

I want to be a writer.

Even typing that was scary. I know I’ll never be a Susan Jane Gilman {one of my very favorite authors}, write the great American novel, or any novel. I own the fact that my grammar and spelling are – to put it mildly– wretched.  I think though that I can tell a story, I love telling stories. Words are my narcotic, my high. Even if I can’t spell most of them.

Yesterday I took a seriously scary hairpin turn in my quest to be what I’ve always wanted. My first piece was turned in to the editor at the Washington Post who asked if I’d like to write for her a year ago this month.

It isn’t a full story, more snippets on a topic. But I did the research, made the calls, and wrote the words. My name will be on an actual check from their publishing department. Of course I also got a good friend to help me edit it before I sent it in – grammar and spelling support, a must.

Hitting send was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. The most liberating, fulfilling, kick-ass keyboard stroke of my life. I may never be a known name, or even a marginally successful freelancer, but for the moment I am who I always wanted to be… a writer.

Yeah, it’s still scary.

UPDATE: You can read my first Washington Post piece here. Already working on my next assignment. And yes, it’s scary… still!

 

 

A Life Measured With Coffee Spoons

I’ve often wondered what T.S. Eliot meant by a life measured with coffee spoons. Was The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock  a lament to time lost in the doldrums of watching others live a fuller life or a reminder for us to see the extraordinary in our own ordinary.  That’s sort of the beauty in poetry, it’s a kaleidoscope of words in which we each see different things. Right?

A friend recently sent me a gift with the quote on it.

A Life Measured In Coffee Spoons

I’m sure this had something to do with my famed addiction to coffee. But, as I sat and thought about it the gift took on a deeper meaning, making me realize how profound a cup of coffee can be.

Slowly circling the cup, pulling along a snowy wake of frothed milk, the spoon sings a quiet tune. The sound of daydreams, of new adventures, of deep longing and fruitless introspection. 

In cups ornate and plain, chipped on occasion stained, the spoon omnipresent. I’ve stirred with a view of the sun rising upon the Duomo, clicked steel on china while watching sheep graze in a misty Irish haze.  Sleeping children have heaved blissful sighs as the spoon turned on. Words and tears have flowed to the dulcet drone.

I choose to believe in the everyday extraordinary. In a beautiful life measured in coffee spoons. Though I’ve recently switched to tea.

 

Motorola Droid Turbo Giveaway: Take Better Travel Photos

Take better travel photos from anywhere in the world with Verizon WirelessIf I had a dollar for every time a member of my family rolls their eyes over how many pictures I take I’d check one of those items off my bucket list.  Take an epic solo trip – CHECK! How many travel photos do you think you’d take if you won a Motorola Droid Turbo giveaway?

Though they may find my laying on the sidewalk to get the best shot both annoying and disturbing, there is a reason why I take so many pictures. Kathleen was her name.

I can still remember the sound that marked her arrival in our one-tumbleweed town – a low rumble, followed by a roar. I was five years old the day Tropical Storm Kathleen sent a nearly four foot wall of water through our town. I’ve never forgotten that sound.

Her wake washed away life as my family had known it. Once she was done I’d never again hold my mom’s hand, a trembling ball of excitement waiting to get a wave back from the Engineer driving the train that ran past the house. No train would ever travel those tracks again. The friendly rabbits that took shelter in Manzanita grove behind our neighborhood would never come back. Nearly every photo my mother treasured was damaged or destroyed.

We were lucky that September day. The sandbags held, for the most part. Much of our town was damaged. At the bottom of the mountain they weren’t so lucky.  Homes, lives, almost the entire town was lost.

So much can be gone in the blink of an eye, in the roiling waves of Nature’s furry, on random happenstance. Having seen that first-hand at such a young age shaped me. A quiet voice in the back of my head tells me to hold on. Pictures are how I hold on to the people, places, emotions that shape our lives.

With my very first “job” {hocking greeting cards from a company that advertized in the back of a magazine} I earned myself a Polaroid 1000 Land Camera – complete with Instamatic film cartridges and a fancy disposable flash bar. I was well on my way to becoming the next Dorothea Lange. 

Or… not. 

My photography skills – or lack there of– were fodder for endless comic relief. “Hey, look! Jason is Flash Gordon. See the blur?!” I was notorious for beheading my subjects, on film at least. Shaking a photo to aid in development became the preamble to public humiliation.  Yet, I was undaunted. I wouldn’t let a few bad photos {okay, a ton} keep me from snatching those memories and holding on tight. 

In the many decades since that first camera I’ve gotten a little better at snapping a photo. I’ve also had the chance to capture pictures in some of my favorite places around the globe. Sometimes there is still blur, but for the most part everyone has a full head on their shoulders.

I took this photo with the HTC One M9 Smartphone while visiting Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. Taken in the dark, the only filter used was the low-light feature on the phone. Not bad, eh?
I took this photo with the HTC One M9 Smartphone while visiting Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. Taken during their Northern Lights display, this is a night shot. The only filter used was the low-light feature on the phone. Not too bad, eh?

The advent of smartphones with good cameras {and let’s be honest, great filters} may not have made me a better photographer,  but it has made for better pictures. I’d like to think my willingness to lay on that sidewalk, stretch out over the precipice, and elbow the elderly out of my shot has had an impact as well. 

I hope that one day the rolling of eyes and the exasperated sighs of my family will fade. It may be a bit much to think that they’ll ever appreciate my insistence that they never take a bite before I get a picture of the food. I hold hope that they’ll eventually forgive me for forcing them to ask the Irish Customs Inspector wait until I was set up to get the shot before he stamped their passports – and then sharing it on Instagram because I have great Global Service with Verizon.  Even if none of this ever happens, no matter where we roam in this crazy adventure, I will  have the pictures to remember. These are the moments that I never want washed away.

A group of some of my favorite Wanderlusters have teamed up with me and OM Media Group to let you know about Verizon’s Global Service, help you stay connected while wandering the globe, and make sure you never miss a shot. Share your favorite travel photo(s) for a chance to win (a Motorola Droid Turbo). Be sure to join @theonlinemom and the Verizon Wireless Buzz crew for some fabulous Twitter chats – every Friday at 3:00 p.m. eastern using the hashtag #VZWBuzz
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Terms:

 

Valid to residents of the United States only. All photos must be original with no copyright or distribution restrictions. Photos remain the property of the entrant, who further agrees to give Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom, OMMedia Group, and participating bloggers permission for use solely in promoting this giveaway. Entries with nudity, violence or illegal activities will be deleted and the entry voided. Prize fulfillment will be completed by OMMG. No cash value or substitutions. Winner will be chosen by random number generation and announced within 48 hours of the contest end date (8/30/2015). Winner will be notified via email and has 72 hours to provide shipping information for the prize. If 72 hours lapses without contact, a new winner will be drawn.

 

 

 

Disclosure: As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less!