While getting a manicure, I engaged in friendly
conversation with the woman at the adjacent station. She mentioned the current
month’s InStyle magazine, featuring Diane Keaton.
Later that day while shopping at Publix, I grabbed a
copy as I passed through the checkout lane.
How do you explain that, as I perused the brand-new
magazine, a photograph fell out of the pages – an older photograph – of a
yellow North American T6 airplane?
Where did this photo come from? It was just nestled
within the pages of a fashion magazine.
This plane was flown as a trainer in WWII. In this
image, it appears to be parked as a static display, perhaps at a museum?
I’ve searched – but I cannot explain anything about
But that is what I’ve come to love about it – the mystery. This little scene happened about four years ago, and I still keep the picture in my studio. If you know anything about this plane, or the photo, I’d love to hear about it! – Julie
Classic literature is my favorite genre to read; My current pick is Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Mike took an interest in the title, but he’s not an avid book reader. We decided to watch a movie version, which we both enjoyed. But it got me thinking…
Jules Verne wrote that book in 1870, in French, and an English
version followed in 1872. Amazing, an idea, a tale, that Verne articulated nearly
150 years ago is still reaching people – and will continue on for how many
years beyond? This idea got me thinking about ideas, and creativity, and their
I’m amazed that we appreciate art imagined hundreds, possibly
thousands of years ago – or, even that when we use a device, such as a telephone,
that was imagined so long ago, we are interpreting an idea, a manifestation of
creative energy. I’ve always imagined creativity as an energy in the form of a
mystical butterfly or bird, flitting around, landing on curiously open minds
like bright flowers. An idea may come but it won’t necessarily stick, or it may
change. Some fester and die. But I like to think of the world as full of this
creative energy, flowing all the time.
I think an artist’s greatest hope is that their work engages
someone, touches them in some way. Even if that moment is simply to evoke the
briefest happiness — like a tactile sense of appreciation, that hope is enough
to finish what was started. Painting is no doubt a selfish reward, for all the
intricate joys it produces. But back to Jules Verne, or Edison or anyone that
receives and engages their creative muscle – you never know who that act will
reach. It may not come in your lifetime. How many artists suffered penniless humiliation
only to be lauded long after they’ve passed?
It’s an endless curiosity to never know, to not particularly
care, who that energy reaches, but rather that it reaches someone. Create for
the sake of creation, to fulfill the quest of the mystical bird, bounding
through the universe.
Stella Mae. This is our twelfth summer and I am grateful for her, every single day.
She was at an adoption day at PetSmart. Amid a corral of frolicking puppies, she lay aloof, by herself. As I approached the perimeter, she stood and calmly walked to meet me. She sat in front of me and looked up to me with her soft eyes. DONE! I’ve said and will always say she is a ‘once in a lifetime’ kind of friend.
Here we are in the studio, taking a bothie (not a selfie, cuz that’s just of yourself). ❤
The first time I went to Omaha, Nebraska, it was October of
1994. It has since become like a second home, it bears that sort of feeling.
But that first time, I was there because I was in liver failure.
I was twelve years-old and my parents had exhausted options in our home state
This was an era before Internet; fax machines were the hot technology.
The information and support available to patients and families was limited.
Being as we were so far from home, we stayed in a sort of group home offered as
a patient resource. It was a converted Victorian-era home called “The Potter
House”, where families from out-of-state could stay more affordably than a
hotel for extended visits. We were in room six, on the second floor. Our room
had a lovely sitting area, a sunroom of sorts, that was ideal for reading. It
overlooked the quiet neighborhood about two miles west of downtown, which is
now known as the Blackstone area.
I was being evaluated as a candidate for a liver transplant.
This process can be lengthy, requiring all sorts of tests before learning whether
one will “qualify”, for lack of a better term, for the national waiting list. And,
once a person is listed, there is no guarantee that they will receive the organ
they need. Life on the waiting list is precarious, but that’s another story for
a different day.
The idea of a liver transplant was terrifying, as in the
early nineties, it was still kind of a new thing. There was a support group and
some books available, but I was unclear about what my future would entail, should
I receive a new liver. Would I be able to attend school or play sports? I was
at that time very sick and home/wheelchair bound, so all my hope was to be a “normal”
Then I met a man named Ed. To this day I don’t know his full
name or really any details about him. I just remember coming downstairs to
breakfast, gathering in the communal kitchen; I watched Ed lace up his shoes
and sprint out the door, going for a run.
Ed had very recently undergone a liver transplant. And he
was out for a run. I was fascinated.
“What advice can you give me?” I implored, incredulous, to
this man that was a picture of health.
He smiled and considered my question. He replied: “it’s
gonna be hard, it’s gonna hurt, but you gotta push through it.”
I was floored. In that moment he became a sort of enigma,
embodiment of a muse.
Nearly 25 years have passed and I have thought of Ed’s
advice every day. It was simple advice, but he represented the very torch of
hope to me.
In many instances, his advice has gotten me through the day.
I don’t know what became of Ed, but I am still here. His
advice helped me navigate and recover from two liver transplants, one on April
16, 1995 and another on August 5, 2011. His advice taught me how to be a good
patient, because that in itself is a difficult prospect at times.
Ed will never know what he did for me that day. It’s amazing
that we can touch another person’s life without ever knowing it.
A wonderful act to
reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret
and mystery to every other. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
I so very admired my
great aunt; her name was Gizella. To my family and I, she is known as Aunt Giz.
She was the epitome of
chic, which is the perfect balance of humbleness and sophistication. One of my
earliest memories is feeling enchanted by this marvelous woman. She conversed
with me not as a little child, but as a lady, and as such, she made me feel valued
and grown-up – which, to a little girl, is everything! She was so genuine; Her
generous affection was pure, radiant and sincere, but her dislike for something
was not unknown either. I admired that about her: such an honesty of being.
I think many people feel as I do, about relatives and friends passed on: I didn’t get to know her as well as I’d have liked to. Much I know about her was, very sadly, gained after her passing.
When she passed, my
family was tasked with the “final arrangements”, which included the dismantling
of her life – in literal terms. What to do with the books she read, the
silverware and tableware from which she ate her food, the blankets that warmed
her? Sad and stressful, the undertaking altered my perspective of life,
particularly about its details. We would call to one another, from room to
room: “what do you think should be done with this (insert object)?” (The things
we picked through were sorted into roughly three categories: toss, sell, donate.)
It was an uncomfortable feeling, crossing into someone’s personal space and
deciding how to dispatch their things.
After a few days at this task, a sort of numbness came over me and, most of it,
was a job to be done. Closing her
estate took a long time, but that is another story for another day.
Amid the chaos, there were a few little treasures that begged me to keep. I have three pieces here in my studio space with me.
One is a thick, heavy photo album, brimming with
an era of photographs of Aunt Giz and her beloved husband, my Great Uncle
Eugene (known to all as “Gene”). It is an intimate portrait, a delightful
pictorial story of her life from about 1965 to 1980. They are in love with one
another, it is evident. They lived in an incredible home in Malaga, Spain,
sparkling Mediterranean on the horizon. There they entertained with fabulous
style among numbers of friend; lovely people with smiling faces, of whom I
I wonder if, after my
time has passed, someone will look at my photos and feel the kind of radiance
and love that I do for Aunt Giz? That, in my opinion, is a testament of a life
The second item is another photo. This one is 8 x 10”, black and white, and we believe it to have been taken by Andre Kertesz; he was a close friend. That is an interesting detail to a photo buff — Here, it is the subject of the photo I love. Gene is seated, looking at a pamphlet of some sort; my Aunt Giz stands just a little behind him, leaning against the wall, looking at him in evident adoration. It’s a beautiful moment; I consider it art.
The third item is a page
of handwritten prose; I don’t know to whom to credit for the thoughtful and
serene discourse. I have it tacked to a corkboard that hangs above a bookshelf;
now and then I seek a few moments’ comfort, as I hope you will too.
In closing, I affirm that
this is one of those articles about “the best things aren’t things”. The
belongings I speak of aren’t of monetary substance, but they conjure the
invaluable memories of an Aunt I cherished in life — and even more afterward,
in her legacy, that alludes to the colorful, astute woman that will always be
representative of Aunt Giz.
To live content with
To seek elegance rather
To be worthy, not
respectable and wealthy, not rich.
February 2018, my friend Darren reached out to me regarding a project at Orlando
Regional Medical Center. Darren is the recipient of a kidney & pancreas,
and I am a liver recipient. (I have a chronic condition known as Budd Chiari
Syndrome, for which there is no cure. Because of this condition, I received my
first liver transplant April 16, 1995. Unfortunately, I needed a second
transplant on August 5, 2011, due to recurrence of BCS.) Darren and I have worked
together on a number of organ donation-related causes, and this one sounded
living in Tampa at the time, I traveled to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Darren
introduced me to Debbie Alexander; Debbie brought together a small group of
hospital staff with the hopes to find suitable artwork for a wall that had been
allocated for a project.
project is called “Wall of Heroes” and was designed by a caring physician named
Jeff Sadowsky. Dr. Sadowsky believed something needed to be done to honor organ
donors and their families. He explained that when someone passes, and they
choose to donate, their families leave the hospital with their grief and a
plastic bag containing their loved one’s belongings. They return to their lives
within the community without distinction – but they are heroes, their loved ones
are heroes, and they deserve recognition.
Sadowsky chose to act, founding the organization GR8 to DON8 in 2009. Merging
his love of fitness to the cause, he formed the GR8toDON8 8k Run for Organ Donation.
from the GR8toDON8 8k Run were allocated for a second passion project of Dr.
Sadowsky’s: The Wall of Heroes. Dr. Sadowsky thought families and loved ones
should have a place to go in which they could honor and memorialize their hero.
A wall within Orlando Regional Medical Center was designated for the memorial.
the Associate Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Orlando Regional
Medical Center, he was initially impacted by the power of donation during his
early years in training, where he often saw very ill patients in need of
organ donor can save up to eight lives (hence the 8K Run for Organ Donation)
while tissue donation can improve the quality of life for dozens more. Last
year, nearly 31,000 lives were saved due to the generosity of organ donors. Today,
more than 120,000 children and adults await that precious gift. Hundreds of
thousands more patiently wait for the gift of tissue donation.
Sadowsky’s vision for the wall was a piece of artwork that would somehow convey
gratitude and honor for organ donors. Darren and I brainstormed on an
interactive project that educates the public about the importance of organ
donation and will hopefully inspire individuals to choose life and register to
become a donor (if they have not already). Meanwhile, Dr. Sadowsky and the
collective group of Team Orlando assigned the concept of the ripple effect. How would we create – and fulfill – the vision
of these caring people?
a liver recipient, the mission to honor donors resonated deeply. I sketched a few
designs but the painting that was ultimately selected came together quickly. I
named the painting “the Odyssey” in honor of my beloved physician, Dr. Michael
F. Sorrell, after something he said many years ago.
Sorrell is now retired, but in 1994, he saved my life. I was an eleven-year-old
child with an undiagnosed disease. I went from being a healthy kid to deathly
ill and spent a year bouncing through countless doctors and tests, to no avail.
My parents had heard of Dr. Sorrell, and although he did not typically deal
with pediatrics, agreed to see me. My family traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to meet
him, and I was finally diagnosed with Budd Chiari Syndrome. Due to the advanced
state of my disease, I learned that I would need a liver transplant to survive.
I’ve always appreciated Dr. Sorrell’s kind but matter-of-fact way of speaking,
and he described the transplant experience as an “odyssey”. In all the years
that have passed, I’ve yet to find a better term. This odyssey begins as a
patient, hoping you’ll qualify to be listed, despite that your opportunity at life
means tragedy for another. Then the call comes that the transplant team located
a match: you’re simultaneously so many emotions that it leaves one breathless. It’s
an experience in extremes.
My painting is a simple design: a cascade of ripples that are created by a
single water droplet, comprised of a bold but limited palette of blues against
a bright white background. The water droplet represents the action of an organ
donation, and the ripples are all the lives positively impacted. Some ripples
will be organ or tissue transplant recipients, some represent organ donors. There
are eight definitive ripples that represent the eight transplantable organs.
and I contacted an organization called Intermedia Touch to take the second part
of our idea to fruition. We wanted to fulfill the message of the project
through means of a digital and interactive product. This piece is especially
unique in that while it resembles static artwork from a distance, it is live
and interactive on a 70” monitor. The painting was animated so that the water
droplet falls, causing the eight ripples to move. As viewers approach, they’ll
notice the soft sound of water moving. Users can touch any one of the eight
ripples to learn about organ or tissue donation, to dispel the common myths and
misconceptions about donation and transplantation, to register to become a
donor, or to register for the GR8 to DON8 race. The piece honors donors by allowing
families to recognize their loved ones in the Heroes gallery, where they may
share up to five photos as well as video. It is a place where families can
honor their loved one and by sharing their story, hopefully pass on a message
of hope to others.
project went live January 7th at Orlando Regional Medical Center. It
will be officially revealed in April for Donate Life month.
I have been trying to put The Odyssey
embedded: in your hands, the tender flesh at the crook of your inner arm, in
your neck, a port in your chest.. they go on.
Labwork at 4am, or some timeframe like that;
the phlebotomist going in before you can fully wake, lights suddenly on,
elastic tourniquet snapping around your arm, searching for and hopefully
finding an irritable vein.
Team arrives, you get bad news. They leave in a flock-like formation, white
coats, sympathetic smiles and heads nodding. An hour later, the door bursts
open, a uniformed aide whips a wheelchair into your small room. They usher you
out of bed, filing your attached IV cart in sequence with the awaiting chair.
They wheel you and your IV down the hallway, into an elevator, and into a
freezing cold, darkened room. A tech awaits with an ultrasound, CT or MRI, or
some machine. You cooperate as they direct, the test is performed, and you come
and go. An aide rolls you back to your hospital room. As you ride through the
crowded hallways you notice that most people do not look at you, or make eye
contact, with a person in a wheelchair.
take a moment to recognize your own slim, jaundiced face in the mirror of your
hospital room bathroom.
hospital at night, quiet finally falls, the pace slackens. You try to sleep.
any physical pain or anything a patient endures;
watching others watch you.
the effect it has taken on the people you care about, that care for you. You
identify sorrow, grief, deep worry, bone-deep fear.
are no plans for the future. A baby shower for a baby you hope to live to meet;
an engagement party for your best friend — and she asks you to be a
bridesmaid. I think to myself, I hope I am still alive to see my best friend on
her wedding day.
then the call comes, perhaps the most significant in your lifetime: we found a
liver, it’s a perfect match for you. In disbelief — As the news washes over
you, you realize with your heavy, heavy heart that another family has arrived
at their darkest hour. It is a surreal feeling; you are being given a chance.
the heartbreak and pain, something miraculous is taking place. So many people
come together, no matter the hour of day, they rise to the occasion, they are
at their best. An orchestra plays beautiful music.
wake on the other side. You have crossed over.
new kind of fight begins: The journey to recovery: who knows what life will
become? Will life be like it was before all the illness and pain?
will be better; Each day, you strive for that. It’s difficult, there are
setbacks, but there is the victory that you are on the other side and you can
look forward to things again. There are lots and lots of small victories, like
the first day in months that you can sit properly at a table and enjoy a simple
meal with your family. There are the first stairs you ascend, wobbly and quite
weak but determined.
He okay? I made a pact, took a vow, that I am going to be the Guardian of this
new liver, and I’m going to LIVE!
many put their hearts into saving your life, so go LIVE your life, gratefully
For the past three years I have worked as a writer for a dating website, writing profiles for men and women across every walk of life. It is one of the more unique ways I have used writing as a means, and I enjoy the work.
As most would expect, the variety of people is interesting, although the things we seek in love seem to be universally similar: respect, authenticity and honesty. Most say that traveling tops their list of interests, followed with food and friends. Having written for all kinds of personalities, I see their uniqueness – but I don’t think we’re so different when it comes to our emotional being. We are all afraid of getting caught up in some crazy, painful situation and being made to feel like a fool.
Singles always say, “I don’t want to get hurt”. Ponder for a moment: what we’re really saying is that we don’t deal well with discomfort. Comfort is a luxury, but we treat it as a necessary commodity. The way I see it, the moment a person sets foot in the dating arena, they’re accepting the risk. Perhaps they’ll hold back emotionally or maintain the most superficial of contact. Having nursed a broken heart a time or two myself, I can certainly understand why we conspicuously avoid the myriad of awful emotions tied up in that.
Moving in a slightly different direction, consider: not every relationship is meant to be forever. Many people come and go — there are many whose absence leaves longing but others (hopefully very few) to whom we say, “good riddance”! I’m a fan of the author Elizabeth Gilbert, and one of my favorite sayings about matters of the heart is hers: “a soulmate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention, so you can change your life.” Soulmates, I think, come in various forms, ranging from friendships to those of the romantic persuasion. We often (inadvertently, I believe) gain much of own growth from those around us, friends and lovers alike. Every relationship in life suffers an inevitable fate of some imperfection. However, from such elasticity, we grow.
Passion leads us into situations and circumstances of great possibility, for richer or for poorer. We laud and admire those that are great risk-taskers, anyone from characters in books and film or even political leaders and artists. In closing, I would always encourage any one to take the risk. I’ve always believed in love, and I mean that about the love we have inside ourselves for others – not the other way around. I imagine that love resembles a lighthouse, emitting a giant, powerful sweep of brilliance. By keeping that light to ourselves, we never know what we could be shining it upon.