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Monday, February 23, 2015

Inspiring Folks

How about some Monday inspiration on this chilly afternoon?  

I'd like to dedicate this post to some people and things that have inspired me.

Personally, it's been a long road.  A pretty carefree and happy childhood was intercepted by almost a decade of chaos, surgeries and whatnot.  And, like my one-woman show says, I wouldn't take it back for the world.  Everything that has occurred in this shaky time has built who I am.  Plus, I've done amazing things I never thought I would do and have met some truly extraordinary people.

Last year, I was given the amazing honor of receiving the Eastern Regional Great Comebacks Award sponsored by Convatec.  These awards were founded by Rolf Bernishke - a former NFL place-kicker who's life also took an unexpected turn, when faced with IBD and eventual ostomy surgery.

Rolf is an amazing guy, and because of him, I was able to meet four other young people from across the country who had all overcome their obstacles with flying colors - thriving as ostomates.

I had the pleasure of getting to know Jearlean Taylor, the National Recipient through these awards, and I'd like to share her story.  You can watch her video for Great Comebacks here, learn about her book Pretty Girl Blues, and gawk at her gorgeous modeling photos on her Facebook page.  You go girl!

The Awards night was a fun night at the famous Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, TN
Me with Jearlean

All of the regional honorees at the Great Comebacks National Awards Ceremony in Nashville, TN
The second empoweringly creative woman I want to introduce you to is my fellow performer Yokko Yoshiko Usami.  I met her during the awards ceremony for the 2014 United Solo Festival, in which we both performed out our-woman shows.  Yokko used the Japanese dance art of Butoh to tell her own story of Medea, and her show swept virtually every award at the festival!  I had the pleasure of taking a workshop with her in Butoh, and was so inspired by using dance to express emotions in such a different way.  I'd love for you to visit her company website,  Ren Gyo Soh.  Officially, she's a Gyo Soh, an actress, Butoh Dancer, Choreographer, Solo performer, Movement Artist, Theatre Educator and certified Yoga instructor.  Phew!  

 This was me in my show, "Gutless & Grateful: A Musical Feast"
Yokko in her show!
I finally met Yokko at the Awards Ceremony for United Solo at Theatre Row Studios in November 2014.

It was so creatively stimulating to meet so many one-person performers from all over the world who each had a unique story to tell.  United Solo is the world's largest international showcase of one-person performances - from dance, drama, puppetry, comedy, musicals - and the heart, ingenuity and passion that goes into each show is incredible.  Each glimpse into these artist's souls immediately causes you to peer into your own.

The last wonderful woman I want to write about (saving the great creative men for next week!) is my childhood friend Jessie Novik.  Simply looking at her website can explain this.  Her art explores surreality and imagination in such a vivid and ironically realistic way.  She does everything from oil painting, drawing, clay, glass, and went to school for art therapy.  Check out her website, and her art will blow you out of the water!

There are so many more extraordinary individuals I could name right now, but I figure three at a time is enough.  But again, the hidden blessings of traveling alternate paths in life, is that trails intersect that wouldn't in any other case - and I am truly blessed for this navigational mixup!

In the studio...
This was a background I had started the other day
And this is what I came up with!
(Thanks to a new set of awesome paints...)

I do like these paintings together, actually.

I also picked up a bunch of canvases, so I started some prepwork on those - to be continued!

In other inspiring soul-candy, my playwriting professor at Hampshire shared a beautiful poem with me:

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.
Jane Hirshfield, "For What Binds Us" from Of Gravity & Angels. Copyright © 1988 by Jane Hirshfield and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

I resonated with this especially because of what my body itself has been through, but I think anyone can relate to this.  The body remembers - it remembers the good and the bad.  And anything can regenerate, anything can get better.  Things may not go back to how they once were, but can still come together beautifully, just different.  Like a mosaic.  

Speaking of economic creativity, these were actually some pretty nifty free date ideas!
And if you're a spendthrift won your nights out, perhaps one day you can save up for one of these house-related splurges - wow...this puts dream-house on a totally new level!

This is a little primer on some alternative mental health therapies - art, drama, wilderness, laughter - hey, laughter healed me! There was really no road map for what I went through.  I wasn't "sick" and I didn't have a "disease" with a diagnosis.  Furthermore, I didn't have a timeline or game plan for how I was supposed to heal, or if I would, or what the picture of healing and being "healed" even looked like for me.  So I used art and creativity as a lifeline - as an anchor, to pass the time, an outlet, expression, connecting with the world, with my self, to find an identity, reclaim my old one, find some peace of mind when I couldn't find anything else, be messy, and just have fun.  I believe that the body cannot heal without the mind.  There is SO much power in positive thinking.  Medicine had no magic cure - but I found magic in the mystery - I had not choice but not to.  And art is the best way to embrace life's mysteries, I think.  What do you think?

On a cold day like this, pop in some warm cinnamon rolls
This way you can use your ice cube tray for something else.  Here are 23 alternative ideas!

Speaking of repurposing, these are some great other recipes for muffin tins - besides muffins, of course.

And before I go, let me leave you with a song with words I think we should all live by - thank you John Denver.  "Sweet Surrender."


  1. Amy, I have nothing but respect for people like you. To go through tragic events and come out stronger than ever is an amazing thing. I've also always had a love of performing, though I've not done much in that area aside from a couple of minor (but so much fun) figure skating shows. I'd like to do something like that again.

    That poem is beautiful, as is your art! Congrats to all of the wonderful people you mentioned in this post, and of course congrats to you. Sounds like you've got great times ahead!

    Edge of Night

  2. Thank you so much Eve! And it's never too late to start again! (Except for me - I was an awful ice-skater from the time I put one foot on the ice, and then that was it for me - sticking to the stage now!)

  3. wow your story is so inspiring and I'm glad there's people like you in this world to spread the love and light it needs, namste :)