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 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.

I met the devil and she drinks Absolut Cosmopolitans

I had this plaque in my room when I was growing up. My parents must’ve given it to me. I recently gifted it to my older son who thought it was just…weird. It had a Tennyson quote on it that read, “Once in a golden hour, I cast to earth a seed. Up there came a flower, the people said a weed.” I told my friend about it today, lamenting yet another rejection notice I’d received. She was stunned. Not that I’d gotten the rejection. I mean, she likes my writing and all, but rejection is a part of the biz. No, she was visibly dismayed by the plaque. “Why would anyone give a child something so…negative?” She asked.

“I never thought of it as negative,” I defended. “Just an accurate state of the world. I knew from a very young age that life would be full of naysayers who wouldn’t necessarily appreciate my artistic vision. As an artist, that kind of personal and societal awareness has served me well.”

“Really?” She inquired. “Perhaps it was more of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I mean given all the motivational quotes in the world, why didn’t they put up a photo of Henry Ford that said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” Kids are very impressionable, you know.”

She then admitted that her folks had hung a large picture of a can-can dancer in her childhood bedroom, complete with pouffy red crinoline, black bustier and fish net stockings. “And what did I do?” she challenged, “I became a Rockette.” It’s true. She really did become a Rockette. I had to concede. It seemed like more than mere happenstance.

I heard this author on NPR the other day say that boys named Dennis have a significantly higher likelihood of becoming dentists. Really? I mean the words do in fact sound alike. Could that really be a way of subconsciously directing an offspring’s career path? The author also said that Larrys were more apt to be lawyers. My friend, Barry, is a lawyer. Barry…Barrister. Hmmm??? I wonder if you named your kid “Imogene” if they’d be destined towards Radiology. I once knew this old lady named “Honey.” She was definitely overweight. Are most “Rosenblums” florists? What about “Dicks” are they disproportionally flocking to the field of Urology or private investigating? This opens a whole new world of possibilities for our children.

I did notice (only recently) that the letters in my son Levi’s name can be rearranged to make the word “L I V E.” That was pretty cool until a pal pointed out that with yet another letter shift you got the word “E V I L.” Damn. I even screw up subconsciously.

The point is that everything we do, say, or hang in our kids’ rooms really does matter. That’s like my worst nightmare. Translated, it means I really do have to obsess over each and every not so great parenting moment. Argh! How can a person live knowing this?

I once met this woman at a party. My kids were tiny. Hers were grown. I was in some state of distress over where to send them for preschool or something. She put her arm around me and took me aside. Then with the calmest, most assured voice I’d ever heard she said, “Debra, all of these little decisions you’ll be faced with over the years, the minuscule choices you’ll have to make, Just remember, every single one of them…matters more than you can ever know.” She then smiled and wandered back to the bar to refill her Cosmopolitan.

I sat there dumbfounded for a moment. Did she really just say that? Was she trying to curse me? I think I left the party shortly thereafter, no longer in a particularly festive mood, now that I was shouldered with the weight of the world. But just as I got into my car to set out for home, I remembered that this prophetic woman’s name might hold the key to her enigmatic comments. Her name you see was Lucy. Hmmm…sounds a lot like Lucifer, don’t ya think?

Six word memoir

Who are you really, In six words or less?

Who are you really, In six words or less?

I was listening to NPR today and they promoted an upcoming segment on writing your own memoir — in six words. The minute I heard it I was hooked. Six words to tell the world who you were, what your life meant. Fascinating. Tricky. Impossible. I became obsessed. It’s like that game we used to play as kids; “If your house was burning down, what three things would you save?”

If you only had six words, who would you be? Can you hone a description of yourself to that fine a point? Without cliche? Without limiting all that you are?

I began to work:

So much laundry, need to write.

Write to live. Mother to love.

More than mom. Creator, artist, dreamer.

Watch stars. Play Clue. Want more.

Seeking balance — motherhood and self expression.

I asked a friend what his would be. He said, “I would have done it different.” That made me sad.

I kept working. Then I checked out the NPR transcript since I hadn’t even heard the show. Apparently the idea came from “Smith,” the online magazine. Based on the legend that Hemingway once responded to a challenge to write a complete story in six words with, “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn,” They asked readers to tell their life stories in a single sentence. What resulted was a book,“Not Quite What I Was Planning,” by Smith founding editor, Larry Smith and his memoir editor, Rachel Fershleiser.

Here are a few excerpts from the book:

After Harvard, had baby with crackhead.
- Robin Templeton

Watching quietly from every door frame.
- Nicole Resseguie

Savior complex makes for many disappointments.
- Alanna Schubach

Born in the desert, still thirsty.
- Georgene Nunn

Almost a victim of my family
- Chuck Sangster

Painful nerd kid, happy nerd adult.
- Linda Williamson

Then I went back to work on my own. Clearly being a mother was key to my self description. But so was being an artist, an independent creative being. I netted out with this:

“Deep loving mom, creating art to live.”

What would your six word memoir say?