P, B and Jay

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A few years ago when money was already tight and we were scaling back on holiday gift giving, my insane husband, Mark, happened upon a giant inflatable polar bear playing “Whack-a-mole” with two little penguins. Like any adoring husband, he thought, “I just have to spend the money and buy this inane decoration for my Jewish wife for Chanukah.”

I remember walking into the house and hearing this loud whirring noise which turned out to be the pump he bought to blow up the whacking polar bear and penguin cubs. This monstrosity was in the center courtyard of our house when I came home and Mark and our two boys just stood there beaming upon my arrival.

“This is a joke, right?” I asked, looking at the giant arcade-like phenomena. Then, realizing that it wasn’t, I tried to lighten up and smile as I queried about the cost of this newly acquired modern art. “We’re Jewish,” I said, “You do know that we don’t celebrate Christmas and I’m really not okay with a huge Christmas display in the middle of our house.” In spite of the red and green holiday scarf and Santa hat adorning the polar bear, Mark argued that it really wasn’t related to Christmas at all and was merely a celebration of wintertime joy. “He’s beating two penguins,” I countered. “There really is no joy in this scenario.”

Mark nicknamed the Antarctic birds “P and B,” and dubbed the big white Ursus “Jay.” While I acknowledged that the names were cute and clever, I couldn’t wait to rid my home of their presence. Finally when the New Year rolled around I insisted on packing up the polar trio and stuffing them into a cabinet in the garage. I admit I agreed to letting them come out again the following year. But truthfully, I had no intention of honoring that accord.

Last year as the holiday season roared in I had a real heart-to-heart with my husband. I told him how sweet it was that he had purchased such a unique gift for me the year before and that I couldn’t think of a single wife who had gotten as unusual a gift as I had received. But I felt very uncomfortable displaying the wondrous gift as I was proud of our heritage and felt like Jewish people needn’t decorate their homes with Yuletide paraphernalia. He was slightly downhearted but understanding as he neatly packed up P, B, and Jay and readied them for their journey to Good Will.

But then an idea came to me. We have a nearby neighborhood that goes all out at Christmas time.  They create a magical winter wonderland and invite a steady stream of visitors to enjoy their extensive fantasyland. We go with the boys every year and had planned to drive through the Christmas oasis that very night.

As our car slowly crept down the sugar-plum laden road,I readied my family to be on the lookout for a suitable home for P,B, and Jay. We knew it the moment we saw it; one house on the street that was lit up brighter than all the others, with a slew of polar bears gleefully interacting with passersby. This was a home where our Arctic creatures would feel happy, chilled and welcomed as part of the family.

We went home and wrote a deeply personal note explaining why we could no longer care for our beloved trio. Like a despondent parent leaving her baby on a neighbor’s doorstep, we waited till the crowds dispersed and snuck back to leave our package and note at the front door of our new host’s home. We felt sad and our hearts were heavy as we said our final goodbyes and departed.

We checked back a few nights later but there was no sign of P, B, and Jay. We wondered if they would ever see the light of Christmas again. It was a painful holiday season as we mourned their loss, all the while remembering the joy they had brought us the year before. I felt guilty and ashamed of giving them up. Perhaps the new family had too many mouths to feed already and had simply tossed P, B, and Jay onto a trash heap without ever even meeting them in full holiday inflatability.

We grieved their loss for months and when this holiday season arrived we all pretended that we had no expectations. I couldn’t actually bring myself to visit the magical street this year. I couldn’t face it if P, B and Jay weren’t there. At least I could live in denial if I stayed away from the street altogether.

My eldest son, Levi, was bolder and insisted on facing off with reality. He went on an evening Christmas light excursion to check on our threesome. I could barely await his return. “Did you see them?” I asked with fervent anticipation. He looked at me with a stone cold stare. Then he slowly raised his phone to my eyes. It was them! They were there! Front and center. P, B, and Jay were alive and well and celebrating Christmas with their polar bear brethren  in the most prominent spot on the front lawn of the house where we had left them .

I was elated. Seriously. I mean, it was truly as if my beloved offspring had been given a second chance at life. I haven’t stopped smiling for weeks. And as we celebrate another year of light and joy, I realize that Holiday miracles are all around. You just have to look in the right places.

Refuse to sink!

Repurposed vintage lampshade and sample of wood burning art

 sample of wood burning art

 

Repurposed vintage lampshade

Repurposed vintage lampshade

I’m fairly used to rejection. As an actor, writer and artist, rejection has kind of become part of my daily diet. But I learned early on that getting roles was more the exception than the rule and that even the most successful writers wade through piles of rejection letters before anyone deems them publishable. As sensitive a soul as I am, I can take most rejections in stride. But there is a limit, and I discovered it today.

This weekend I did my first art fair. It’s a funky fair in Cave Creek called “The Big Heap.” This show is different from any other art show I’ve ever been to in town. It’s a lot of repurposed art, architectural salvage and vintage creations. It’s also a lot of junk. There’s not nearly as much finished art as I expected. Patrons are bargain hunting for rusty mixers from 1962 not foraging for quirky objets d’art. Needless to say, my clever collection of whimsical wares was not drawing in crowds. After a day and a half of continuous disregard I was more than a little disheartened.

I took a break to get out of my 10X10 tent for a few minutes and to use the porta-potty (definitely my least favorite part of the gig). On the way back, my eye caught a glimpse of a silver trinket at one of the neighboring booths. Upon closer examination, I saw that it was one of those trendy dog-tag necklaces which are typically engraved with hip, meaningless inspirational phrases like “Be here now,” or “Believe in truth.” I almost walked right past it. But something told me to stop, to “be in the moment,” and “trust my instincts.” I picked it up and read its poignant message; a message clearly and obviously meant for me. “Refuse to sink,” it said. I smiled.

I have to admit, my first association went to that guy in Hillsborough, Florida who got swallowed up by a sinkhole last March as he lay in bed sleeping. But after that, I took a breath and really tried to see the more personal meaning of this heaven-sent communique. “Refuse to sink.” That’s not as easy as it may sound. The undercurrent has a heavy tow. In this case, it’s pulling me powerfully back to my bedroom to crawl under the covers and lick my wounded ego in solitude. But that’s not an option.

I guess I could always pretend that I wasn’t the artist. “Did you make these?” people are constantly asking. “Um…no…I…found them…at a second hand art store for…really quirky people. It’s in…Laguna Beach.” That might provide some momentary comfort. Full disclosure though, the people who do venture into my colorful kiosk seem genuinely delighted by my playful pieces. At least I think they’re being genuine. They say things like, “Wow, these are awesome,” or “They’re so unusual and creative.” I’ve used their enthusiasm to keep me from plummeting into sinkhole despair. But in retrospect, I’m wondering if the plethora of positive praise isn’t in the same category as “It’s out of this world,” or “I’ve never quite seen anything like this.” You know, the standard retorts people give when they feel pressured to provide verbal response but refuse to sully their souls with anything short of brutal honesty.

Bottom line, it’s not easy putting yourself out there day after day. But I’ll remind myself and you of one of Martha Graham’s famous quotes about art: “It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll keep the channel open, and I’ll keep hoping that it doesn’t suck me in, swallow me whole and snuff out every last bit of hope in my being. Oops, did I just write that? Anyway check out my website at www.yes-and.com. I’m up for a bit of gentle (yet honest) artistic feedback.

p.s. I did go home today for a nap and left my husband and son to man the tent for a few hours. They sold multiple pieces. So maybe I’m not a useless bit of wasted energy…er…um…maybe I should keep plodding ahead and believing in myself and my creative vision.