Tag Archives: joy

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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Life, Death and Seasons by S.M. Senden

October has begun.

The leaves begin to color; there is a different feel to the air, as summer’s gentle warmth cools and fades with the leaves.  Winter waits impatiently in the wings to come into her own with a chill in the air bringing the fragrance of snow wafting about me, stinging and teasing my sense of smell.

It is not an easy transition.

The seasons seem to do battle for supremacy of the climate. Tempestuous storms rage across the land, hail and tornados threaten as cold and warm fronts collide. We had a string of storms pass through here last night.  More are predicted and a cold front will win the battle for a day plunging us into a fifty degree day before temperatures return to the seventies for a while longer.

It is a season of riotous, gaudy display.

Mother Nature paints her trees in a glorious riot of color. I recall the many falls in the past as a child, walking to the bus stop in the chilly rain of October through the litter of color on the ground. Once and a while picking up a particularly beautiful leaf washed in red, pink, burgundy, orange and yellow with a hint of green, so as not to forget the former lush glory of that leaf. Though we are no longer allowed to burn leaves, someone somewhere always manages to do so. The air is tinged with the fragrance of memories of my past, I am a child again, with my life before me, and I play in the piles of leaves. Do the leaves on the trees miss their fallen companions of summer?

It is also the season of harvest.

Long ago people would hurry to complete their harvest by the end of October, for after that the Pooka was said to come and ruin the crops.  The frosts of November would kill what remained un-harvested. Halloween marked the end of the Pagan year. The hearth would be swept and cleaned, a new fire kindled with the New Year.  The earth would lie as if asleep through the winter, only to awaken in the spring, new life emerging miraculously through the ground that had looked dead and lifeless through the cold winter.

It is a time of change within the cycles of life.

As I contemplate the change of seasons I think about the seasons and cycles, not just of nature, but of life.  I had my birthday last month, and added another year to the increasing number of years lived. I started another annual rotation toward another birthday, like walking a giant spiral staircase that I can not see where it leads, though I go forward with faith that life continues in its succession of days until they come at last to their end.  I wonder what lies on the other side of the veil.

Today, I think of the span of years I have been here on this planet, the places I have seen, the people I have known, the history I have lived through, and the changes yet to come.  I remember meeting a distant relation once, I was twenty she was in her nineties. She made the comment about how she came into the world with gas light, and she was leaving it with men on the moon. Will the changes in my life be as astounding?

It is a time when we come again full circle from where we began a year ago. It is where we will arrive again after another year passes. My wish for us all is that in the year ahead we all know great happiness, great joy, very little pain or sorrow. Just as we can not live without the season where all things die, we must endure the pains and sorrows of life. For, like the season of winter when the earth seems to be barren and dead, we must experience sorrow, so that, we may appreciate joy even more when it comes to us.

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A Christmas Without . . . Again by Jan D Linton (J J Dare)

It’s that time of year again. The radio stations will not let me forget that bells will be ringing and this is not the time of year to be without the ones you love. Of all the depressing seasons, Christmas ranks at the top for a number of people. The entity of this holiday mocks those who are “barely getting through tomorrow” (Hard Candy Christmas © 1978 by Carol Hall). Most of the songs are downright depressing when you listen to the lyrics.

Last holiday season I wrote about a Christmas Without two members of my family who had passed on: my brother and my partner. My brother died in March, 2010, and my partner died unexpectedly the following July.

It was a hard holiday season to find joy. Last year, I found little bits of holiday cheer, here and there, but mostly, I found peace. Tranquility saw me through the time of year when togetherness with loved ones is seen as the ultimate holiday happiness.

This year, as December 25th relentlessly marches toward me, I add another who will no longer celebrate Christmas in my same realm: my mother. In August of this year, she joined other members of my family in the great beyond.

You can be swallowed up in sadness during the holiday season. If there was ever a time I wished for seclusion away from the world, this would be the time. Over Thanksgiving I told one of my daughters that I did not want to do this again. She thought I meant the cooking; what I meant was the holiday. I did not want to sadly celebrate another holiday with the heaviness of empty places at the table.

In the spirit of directing my mind away from hard reality, I’m going overboard with holiday decorations this month. Overboard for me means putting out more than just a few Christmas candles and trinkets. There is a 3-foot tree in my house. It’s fake, but at least it’s a tree instead of a picture of one on the mantle.

This year, I did something I rarely do: I sent out Christmas cards. Typically, I forget to send them until after Christmas and by that time, I’d feel funny sending them with a “Happy Belated Christmas” note attached. I have several addressed and stamped cards from various years; one is even from the early 90’s to someone I don’t remember knowing.

On Christmas Day, we plan to celebrate just like in “A Christmas Story.” Instead of Chinese, we’re doing sushi. We’ll have some traditional fare, too, for those of us who are expecting some of the Christmas trimmings.

Despite my overwhelming desire to halt the season of good cheer, the lights on the tree blink, the candles flicker and carolers on television continue to sing. This year in my year with my withouts, I don’t feel like celebrating a season of joy.

Yet, the season won’t leave me alone. I’m a reluctant wallflower at this dance of December and Christmas has walked over to where I’m silently sitting and is gently coaxing me onto the dance floor.

As I succumb to the wonderful smells of freshly baked cookies and snappy peppermint, I can picture those who are no longer here surrounding me with approval. “Celebrate,” they seem to say. “Celebrate the season with the ones you love. Celebrate our memories.”

I miss Chuck, Dan and Mom deeply. The holiday season reinforces their absence. If I could turn back the clock, I would take it back to when they were still with me and then, break the hands of time.

My holidays will forever have ribbons of sadness wrapped around gifts of joy. “Live in the moment, count your blessings, be thankful for those who love you.” Yes, I do these things and more, but it does not diminish a yearning for times past.

If, like me, you are celebrating a Christmas Without, I wish tranquility and peace for you. I will be honoring the past, acknowledging the present and hoping for the future this holiday season.

Sometimes the journey toward a goal is more rewarding than the goal itself. With that thought, I’ll continue to walk the Christmas Road to joy. Mayhap I will find it at along the way, mayhap I will find contentment from simply walking toward it.

May your own Christmas journey be filled with the gifts most precious to your heart. May comfort accompany you along the Christmas Road. May your Christmas Withouts be wrapped in tranquility and may the stillness of peace reign now and throughout your coming year.

J J Dare (pen name ) is the author of two published books, several short stories and thirty-plus works-in-progress.

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

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An Attitude of Gratitude by Sherrie Hansen

It always amazes me when a friend or family member shows an attitude of gratitude when they are going through the kind of hellish nightmare that would make most of us hide under the covers, griping, groaning and whimpering.  These people face cancer and other dire medical prognoses… lose everything they own in a fire the day before Christmas… suffer through stock market crashes that take their entire life savings… lose a child, a best friend, or a spouse. They suffer unimaginable loss, and yet, in the midst of their grief, they’re able to be thankful for what they do  have, be glad that things aren’t worse, and be grateful for the support of their friends and family, even strangers…

It’s inspirational, mysterious, almost unimaginable at times, to hear thoughts and words of gratitude spoken in the midst of tragedy.

Others of us, when facing circumstances not half as dire or heartbreaking, spew bitter recriminations at God, curse our fowl luck, and complain about our misfortune to everyone within earshot.

What makes the difference? What unfathomable source enables people to give thanks even when awful things are happening?

I’ve learned that at least some of the time, the answer lies in a person’s faith. Believing that all things work together for good, in God’s time, seems to allow people to believe that better things are ahead for those who wait, or at the very least, that God will give them the grace to endure whatever in happening in their lives . I’ve always found it irritating when people spew platitudes, but I can’t deny that I have seen this kind of true, life-altering faith in action on several recent occasions. Instead of asking, “why me?”, these people seem to have a wellspring of inner peace and true joy that supersedes whatever tragic circumstances befalls them. These people are constantly looking up, expecting to see a rainbow.

I’m not talking about Eeyore-ish people who moan, “Such is life”, and begrudgingly accept their fates, pessimists who figured their luck would run out from day one, folks who have always, subconsciously been waiting for the other shoe to fall.  I’m talking about people who have found a lasting joy that is irrespective of their circumstances. These people aren’t stupid, naive or oblivious, so I have to assume that whatever or whomever is empowering them to feel peace in the midst of sorrow is real, tangible, and life-changing.

Although I’ve always been a bit of an Eeyore, I am blessed to have family and friends who love me, and more importantly, a God and Savior who will always be at my side.  I hope on this special day of Thanksgiving, and in the days to come – whatever they hold – that I can be a person who feels an attitude of gratitude for all that I have, has a faith that sustains me through both good and bad times, and is able to draw on an inner peace that inspires others as I have been inspired.

Happy Thanksgiving!

God is in Every Tomorrow (Author unknown)

God is in every tomorrow,
Therefore I live for today;
Certain of finding at sunrise
Guidance and strength for the day,
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain
Comfort for every sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain.

God is in every tomorrow,
Planning for you and for me,
Even in the dark I will follow,
Trust where my eyes cannot see,
Stilled by His promise of blessing,
Soothed by the touch of His hand,
Confident in His protection,
Knowing my life-path is planned.

 

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