creative passion, “fountain of youth”

I’m living proof of AARP’s recent article GENIUS! Not that I’m a genius, but I can vouch for the fact that “our creative horizons need not narrow with age” as the article states. Gay Hanna, head of the National Center for Creative Aging says “We never lose the potential to learn new things as we grow older…In fact, we can master new skills and be creative all our lives.” So the old adage IS true “You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.” Contributing to the discussion is David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, “Genes impact our lives,…but our lives also impact our genes–the brain changes shape according to the experiences it has. …Most of us don’t understand that our true inner potential is quite extraordinary. Not just at age 20 or 40 but well into our elder years. The main reason people stagnate is that they limit themselves through their mind-set or habits. Or they simply set their sights too low.”

Sixty-five-year old Mack Orr had been a cotton picker in Mississippi in the 50’s, as well as a heavy-equipment operator when he moved to Memphis in 1965. Along the way he became a husband, father of 4, and the owner of Mack’s Auto Repair. At 45 he “…was listening to the radio in my auto-repair shop,…They were playing an Albert King song–‘Walkin’ the Back Streets and Cryin’–and it sounded real good. …I went down to the pawn shop, got me a guitar and amp, …And I carried that guitar everywhere I went. If I went to work, I carried it with me. If I went fishing, I carried it. I stayed on it day and night.” Within 3 years his hard work got him gigs as a blues guitarist around Memphis. Daddy Mack, as he is known to friends and fans, has since jammed with Keith Richards and Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones, performed at festivals across America and Europe, and recorded 4 CDs–including Bluesfinger, his latest. Daddy Mack confesses “I never dreamed I’d go to the places I’ve been…”

In the 60’s and 70’s, Judithe Hernandez was known in Los Angeles for her murals. Resettling in Chicago in 1984, marriage, motherhood and a position as a university art instructor sidelined her artwork. Her creative passion took a back seat but she continued to draw, though infrequently, she “…had all these ideas stored away in file drawers–and in my head. And I never let go of the dream that someday I’d come back to it.” At 62, with the end of her marriage and her only child off to college, Hernandez returned to L.A. and resumed her artistic career with renderings of symbol-rich pastel drawings. Evidently she made the right move for in January 2011, Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art will feature her as a solo artist. Hernandez compares herself to an artist years younger “It’s the difference between a sauce you make in five minutes and one that you reduce and reduce and the flavor gets more intense and deeper. You’re left with a smaller amount, but the flavor is amazing.”

Painting literally saved 54-year-old, abstract painter Audrey Phillips. Losing her mother to a brutal murder traumatized Phillips so that in the years that followed she lost her job, her faith, her second marriage. In 2000, a friend with whom she was visiting in New Mexico urged Phillips to start drawing, since she’d been a student of graphic design. “Abruptly, the pictures tumbled forth. The subject: the killer’s face–one version after another in wild, furious, almost brutal renditions. ‘I had been thinking about it a long time,…And it came out with such energy–I probably had 30 pieces of art when I was done. I was like, ‘Thank God that’s out on the page and not inside me anymore!’ ” Phillips, an award-winning abstract artist, living in New Smyrna Beach, Florida confirms that “Painting catapulted me through my final phase of grieving and loss…It basically saved my life.”

According to the article “Of all the qualities that distinguish older artists, perseverance may be the most vital.” In her 9th decade, author Eugenia Lovett West had her first novel, Without Warning, published in 2007 and its sequel, Overkill, came out in 2009. Two more books are in the works. West hopes her story “…inspires older writers to persevere. It’s a blessing to wake up in the morning with the urge to create.”

So here I sit at 12:31 a.m. still typing away at the keyboard, husband snoring in his favorite recliner, with the TV “watching” him, and pets slumbering comfortably nearby. Will I too be allowed to rest, or am I doomed to give voice to the “genius” of my old age without let up?

 “fountain of youth,” may be the death of me yet…hugmamma.

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christians, muslims reach out

Early in the week, an article appeared  towards the back of Section A in the Wall Street Journal. Too bad it wasn’t on the front page, especially in lieu of the current debate over mosques in our country. While a “drop in the bucket,” the news piece reflects that change, when least expected, can happen.

“Turkey Allows Christian Mass At Monastery” spotlights a movement by the Turkish government, which leans towards Islam, to “improve the country’s record on religious tolerance and boost tourism.” While the motive may be mercenary, the hundreds of Christians who attended the 3-hour Virgin Mary Service at Sumela Monastery in the Black Sea region on Sunday, welcome the gesture. ” ‘We came because we think this is our native town,’ said Violetta Popova, a 20-year-old language student and Pontic Greek descendant who lives in Piatagorsk, Russia.” Although Christians have been free to practice their faith, their places of worship have been transformed into mosques, museums or lay in ruins. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew gave thanks to the government, which kept a low profile in its representation by the  town mayor of Macka.

A second service is scheduled September 19 at the 10th century Armenian Aghtamar Church on Lake Van in Eastern Turkey. At one time it was the seat of Armenia’s national church. It remains to be seen if this event comes to pass given the current political atmosphere. A year ago, when the government agreed to the church services, the focus was “on a Democratic Opening policy, aimed at finding nonmilitary means of ending the country’s decades long conflict with militants claiming to represent the country’s ethnic Kurds by improving minority and religious rights. Those have been key demands of the European Union, which Turkey is negotiating to join.”

Unfortunately the Democratic Opening soured with attacks by the Kurdish Workers Party which triggered a backlash that threatens to dominate the politics of the  July 2011 elections. Negotiations to open the border between Turkey and Armenia are “in deep freeze.”  Turkey’s culture ministry explained that opening the churches was expected to increase religious tourism which would help solve the region’s economic, political and social problems, while improving relations with their neighbors.

Perhaps a leader of the displaced Christians was correct in saying ” ‘No one should fear believers, whether Christians or Muslims. The most dangerous people are non believers,’…”

one step forward…hugmamma.

a football player, and more

Read an amazing article in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Meet the NFL”s Most Interesting Man.” In part, it reads “The wonderfully named Zoltan Mesko speaks five languages and grew up dreaming of being an aerospace engineer before graduating from Michigan with a business degree and a master’s in sports management. He got lured into football only after he smashed a ceiling light with a kick ball in his Twinsburg, Ohio, junior-high-school gym.”

Romanian by birth, Mesko moved to America in 1997, when he was 10. Having left behind a war-torn country, his parents, both engineers, found living in a New York City apartment not much better. “It was expensive, dirty and cramped-even for three people–so they moved to Twinsburg, a Cleveland suburb with a large Eastern European community.”

In high-school Mesko discovered he could earn a college scholarship as a punter. “When he told his parents, they didn’t believe him. But Mr. Mesko knew they couldn’t pay for college, so he devoted himself to the singular skill of kicking a football as high as he could.” With the help of his father who “sent VHS tapes of Zoltan’s highlights to 86 colleges,” and his mother who researched school rankings according to their academics, he was the nation’s top punting prospect before his senior year. He was offered a scholarship to Indiana, and thereafter, admission to every Ivy League school. Wanting the best of both worlds, Ohio State and Columbia University, Mesko enrolled at Michigan State University.

“In 2009, he set Michigan’s records for gross yards per punt, at 44.5, and net yards per punt (gross minus the return), at 41. He was also named an Academic All-American and became the first specialist in 130 years of Michigan football to be named a captain. ‘That’s one I’m proudest of,’ he says.”

On July 16, the 24 year-old, 6-foot-4 punter signed with the New England Patriots. At the NFL’s minimum wage salary of $325,000 a year (we should all try out at that rate), plus a team bonus of $187,250 Mesko “might be among the poorest players in the NFL but is probably the richest kid from Timisoara, Romania.”

a football player, and more…hugmamma.

cemetery parties

“More than a century ago, cemeteries were social hubs. They were often the greenest spots around. Families would visit on weekends for carriage rides, boating, or picnics by a loved one’s grave. Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery drew half a million visitors a year in the mid-19th century, on par with Niagara Falls.” According to an 8/12 Wall Street Journal article, cemetery socials are experiencing a resurgence. With more Americans opting for cremation, sales of burial plots are on the wane. All around the country prospective buyers have been lured to events on cemetery gounds, in the hopes that they might one day be chosen as final resting places. “In a marketing move that has drawn some criticism, graveyards across the nation are opening their grounds to concerts and clowns, barbecues and dance performances–anything that might bring happy families through the wrought-iron gates.”

At the Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, Colorado, Big Band tune “Swinging at the Savoy” rocks out while couples boogie in the aisles, chowing down  hot dogs, fried chicken and brownies. Cedar Hill Cemetery of Hartford, Connecticut “holds regular scavenger hunts.” Hollywood Forever in Los Angeles projects films on mausoleum walls during the summer, drawing thousands. Disabled children are invited to fish in “a serene pond amid the headstones” at Michigan Memorial Park in Flat Rock, Michigan. “So Davis Cemetery in Davis, Calif., plans poetry workshops, bird walks and art shows. Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln, Neb., hosts a Shakespeare festival and rents its quaint chapel for weddings. In Wheat Ridge, Colo., Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery staged a Memorial Day party with fireworks and sky divers. And Evergreen Memorial Historic Cemetery in Riverside, Calif., recently hosted its first fair, drawing a crowd of 700 for face painting, live rock and In-N-Out burgers.”

While cemetery superintendents want to become a greater presence in their communities, there are naysayers who feel that cemeteries are strictly for the dead. But with very few complaints being registered, festivities on burial grounds seem destined to remain a permanent fixture. As an attendee at a recent concert at Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery, entrepeneur Ken Katuin explained ” ‘People tend to go to places they’re familiar with…That’s why McDonald’s has Happy Meals. You start out there as a kid, you have a happy memory of the place, and then when you’re an adult, you keep coming back.’ …Standing outside the mortuary, Mr. Katuin looked at the couples strolling through the darkening graveyard to hear jazz. ‘Maybe this,’ he says, ‘is their Happy Meal.’ ”

On a recent trip to Orange County, California, to see our daughter perform as part of the National Choreographer’s Initiative, my husband granted my only wish for my 61st birthday, which occurred while we were there. We visited Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I’d wanted to see Michael Jackson’s burial site, but also glimpse where stars from the “Golden Age” of Hollywood were buried. I’d picked up a thick paperback from Barnes and Noble, which was like an encyclopedic “map” of historical celebrity sites, hangouts, studios, homes. Hollywood: The Movie lover’s Guide – The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A. by Richard Alleman, even detailed the specific locations where the famous were entombed. Book in hand we went on our very own scavenger hunt, seeking out dead people.

While we went scavenging, we saw families here and there, quietly laying out assorted picnic goodies for luncheon feasts. I also saw a young woman, sitting peacefully among some trees, eyes closed, in deep thought or maybe meditating. I felt such calm as I strode about, or glanced out the car window, thinking that this would be a wonderful place to rest in eternal peace. But I’m not convinced I’d move to traffic-ridden, smoggy Los Angeles just for the privilege of being interred in Forest Lawn.

but it does take your breath away, literally…hugmamma.