Tag Archives: Freedom

Liza and Me

I am not exactly sure when I came to love Liza Minnelli. Maybe it was when I knew she was Dorothy’s daughter. Maybe it was when she stole the show in “Cabaret.” Or maybe it was when she loved the crazy right out of Dudley Moore in “Arthur.” But I do know exactly when I wanted to BE Liza Minnelli. It was the moment my friend Jim sent me a photo of the dancer taken years earlier.  A stunning black and white shot of Liza wearing only a black coat on a rain soaked highway, it captured an incredible sense of freedom and abandon. With her head thrown back, Liza appears lost in the moment, oblivious to the world, joyful. I remember sucking in my breath, determined to one day feel that emotion, feel that sense of freedom. I told Jim that I planned to replicate that photo.

I began to show the picture to friends.   Everyone who saw it agreed that it was indeed stunning. Some people laughed at my desire to don a coat and take the photo. Others shook their head, trying to wrap their thoughts around how my brain works. A few jokingly offered to take the picture, but I sensed it was to make fun of me. I just nodded patiently, sensing I would know when the time was right. That time came while I was painting furniture in my cousin Mary’s garage.

Mary’s daughter Katie has a knack for taking thrown out pieces of furniture and making them beautiful. She had agreed to help me with my first attempt to take tables passed down from Aunt Winnie and make them fresh. While up to our elbows in brushes and glaze, I spoke of the photo, expecting the same head shaking. Instead, Katie looked at the image on my phone, broke into a smile and said, “That is so cool, no wonder you want to copy it. I’m sure my brother Joe could make it happen. He’s a great photographer.” A few texts later and Joe was on board. But lots needed to be done to prepare.

First, I needed the right coat. Not having Liza’s stunning legs, it needed to be long enough to cover my cellulite, short enough to hint that I work out. I raided the closets of friends and relatives, checked out Goodwill stores, and did a few more squats! In one of those raids I stumbled on my own old raincoat hiding in my sister’s hall closet. I had not seen it in years, and when I put it on, I found it generous enough to hide what no one needs to see while slipping easily off my shoulders. I threw it in the trunk of my car, silently preparing for an unexpected rain storm. Next came finding the location. I left that to Joe. As he lives in a fairly rural area, I was confident he could discover a less traveled road that would allow for a photo shoot without dodging traffic. He mentioned not only needing the right road, but the right pavement, the trees. These were details only a photographer would consider. I felt all I needed was the coat!

Joe and I agreed that spontaneity would determine the best opportunity. The shadows in the picture suggested an early morning or evening, which required the willingness to wake up before dawn or cancel evening plans. We had a few false starts – a cookout where rain threatened but didn’t happen, a morning where it was pouring at my house but dry at his. We patiently waited, watchful whenever rain was predicted. So, when a humid Saturday dawned with thunderstorms, I was hopeful that we would get a window of lighter rain to snap the shot. We did.

Driving through a downpour, I worried that it just might be raining too hard! Barely able to see the road, I knew if it didn’t let up, Joe would not be able to take the picture. When I arrived, he was tracking the storm and felt that a break would occur in the next hour. My anxiety began to climb, the anticipation building as I imagined myself dancing across the road. Right on cue, the rain slowed to a soft drizzle and Joe grabbed his camera, directing me to his car. Two minutes later, my hair wet from the rain, I stepped out onto the pavement.

How hard could it be to float across the roadway, to simply walk on my toes and throw my head back in joy? How hard could it be to let the coat fall where it may but not reveal what was underneath? Actually it was damn hard! What Liza made look effortless, like walking on air, was because she was probably 20 years old and a dancer. My lack of balance let me know that I needed to get back to the yoga mat, and my stiff neck reminded me why I keep Advil close at hand! It felt as if my head was thrown back far enough to see the trees behind me, and each attempt to stay on my toes left me falling over in frustration. A voice in my head began to chatter on about how ridiculous this was to attempt.

But the point of taking the photo was not to look like Liza Minnelli (that’s impossible), but to capture the emotion, to feel that sense of freedom, to let go. As Joe directed me to relax, suggesting I enjoy myself, I began to laugh. I walked across the road with him snapping away. I stood on my toes, lost my footing, and stood on my toes again. The rain stopped and I needed to re-wet my hair in a puddle. A few cars came down the road and stared, probably thinking I was crazy. Yes, trying to replicate the photo was ridiculous, but I have earned the right to be silly. I have earned the right to not care if others think I am nuts.

An hour later, gathered around Joe’s computer, we quickly deleted several of the photos. Then Joe pulled up the one that he said caught my “juju.” I don’t know what that means, but he said it was a compliment and it did make me smile. Made me feel beautiful. It appeared that I had held the pose long enough for Joe to get the shot. In truth, I was about to fall over. I don’t look a thing like Liza, but I do look joyful, do look like I am having the time of my life. Taking the photo was a blast.

I like to imagine that I know how Liza felt when she took her photo. I like to imagine it is the same way I felt, which was glorious! I doubt I will ever get to meet Liza Minnelli, but we share space on my wall. The framed photographs hanging side by side make me smile every time they catch my eye. They are a daily reminder that those moments when I allow myself to let go, to lose my balance, are when the best things can happen. Even when it is raining.

Me as Liza

 NOTE: The original photo of Liza can be viewed at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/531072981032120403/, or by searching images for “Liza Minnelli in the rain.”

Susan Emmerich is the author of A Girl on a Bike: Musings on Life, Loss, and Hot Flashes, now available from Second Wind Publishing and amazon.com She can be found riding her bike around Cleveland OH making observations on a most interesting life.

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The Nasally Conundrum by J J Dare

A long time ago, I gave bad advice to someone. It only changed this person’s life for a blink, but it changed mine forever.

Over the years, I’ve talked to a few people about it and the general consensus was this person was going to veer in a different direction in life and what I had to say at the time was only a feathery nudge, not a full-fledged push. However, at the time it felt as if I was responsible for the course change.

As I grow older and a tiny bit wiser, I realize most people take advice in one ear and out the other. If my advice proves correct and they don’t act on it, I’ll sometimes get a “You were right” acknowledgment. Being right rarely makes me feel good for more than a few seconds.

Advice and encouragement are two different animals. Advice tends to deal with conflicting situations in a person’s life. Encouragement is the cheering squad after a person makes a decision. I like to be the cheerleader rather than the coach.

Advice relies on expertise in a field. I rebel somewhat when it comes to experts, even when I believe I am one. After all, what was correct one hundred years ago or even yesterday is not necessarily correct today.

In addition, individuals have different needs and goals. What works for one may not work for another. Expert advice should be tailored, but I imagine most experts would not take kindly to altering their cemented opinions for different people.

Encouragement is the after party. “You can do this” sounds so much better than “I told you so.” The planted seedling is sprouting and you get to be an attentive gardener. As an encourager, you are not directly responsible for the success of the plant. Victory or defeat is ultimately up to the plant.

I try not to give opinionated advice; I try to offer only suggestions. I’m glad to declare my children still listen to me, but they make their own decisions. My only expertise comes from the course of my own life. If someone looks at my history and can relate in a way that is helpful to them, I’m glad.

My history includes my adventures in writing. The cold fact remains that my writing is what it is. I can’t change how I tell a tale. Even when I write in different genres, my style bleeds through.

A while back, in half jest I told my publisher that I knew how to disappear and live under the grid. I’d learned how from all the research I’d done when writing my books. He told me that he’d know my writing style no matter what name I chose to write under.

The way we, the authors, write is unique to each of  us. In the immortal words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” So is everyone else no matter how much we want to change how they write or walk or eat or anything else.

Advice, suggestions and opinions, whether directed to me or coming from me, have merit. But, even when I put myself in another person’s shoes, I am not that person. There are too many unknown nuances and variables in individuals. The way I handle wanted and unwanted advice and opinions is to mix them all together like cake batter, put the mixture in a pan in the oven and bake it for the best.

So, my peoples, the moral to this tale is I fight the urge to give irrevocable opinions which end up making me sound like a nasally pompous ass. I’m working hard to be an ebb and flow counselor. I’m attempting to overcome the part of human nature that wants the accolades due for correctly telling the future of another.

In honor of my live and let live attitude today, I feel the need to let my hippy side loose for a quick second:

Don’t let your own self-righteousness drag you down.

Fly a little freer and lighten the heavy load of your opinion.

Right on, man. Right on.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

Facebook addiction

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Remember what the weekend is really for

The lilacs are blooming here in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  I can smell them when I walk out my front door.

The honey bees are buzzing, which is a good thing since we just recently got our hive placed.

The grass is a little long, even though I just push mowed the two-plus acres less than a week ago.

My youngest daughter and her friends are laughing as they discuss clothing options for their commencement ceremony which will take place Sunday.

I’m stressed.  There is so much to do this weekend and just not enough time to do it all.  I’d have to be a superhero to make it all happen.

That’s when it hits me.  The long weekend that we’re getting ready to celebrate in the United States is about more than the unofficial start of the summer.  It’s about more than graduations and grilling burgers.  It’s not even about the Indy 500.

It’s all about freedom.

Memorial Day started as a time to remember the soldiers of the Civil War, now it’s a time to remember those men and women who’ve died serving our country whenever and where ever.  It’s a time many people choose to remember their loved ones who have died, even if they weren’t veterans.

I know for a fact that being in the military is tough work.  Even in a time of peace.  There is still separation from family members.  There is still long hours preparing for the worst.  There is still the stress of job.

Being in the military is tough.  I know.  I served.  My husband served.  We’ve both missed various birthdays and holidays as our girls were growing up.  Heck, my dad had to miss family events when I was a kid and he was never in the military.  He was a cop.

There are a lot of similarities between law enforcement and military service.  Both professions give up some of their own rights to ensure society gets to keep theirs.  Both professions often have to put duty above family, even when they really don’t want to.

One of my favorite quotes about the military is by Father Dennis Edward O’Brian, USMC:

It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protestor to burn the flag.

The freedoms we have in the United States shouldn’t be taken lightly.  They should be remembered, not just during a three-day weekend, or when the calendar says it’s the right time.  They are something we should appreciate each and every day.

Take some time this Memorial Day weekend to thank someone who has sacrificed to serve.   You’ll make their day.  You just might make yours, too.

Blessings!

Nichole

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