Read this post for a quick From The Core update...Read More
Well, trying to do those things turns out to be equivalent to not doing them at all. It’s an excuse. Fortunately, as of four weeks ago, after attending a Tony Robbins workshop, I made a change.Read More
In the Syrian Jewish community, there is a word, shatra, which means to serve abundantly, willingly and beautifully. Traditionally, this has been the highest compliment you could give a Syrian woman.Read More
Outsider Art refers to art created outside the boundaries of official culture, outside the established art scene. I first heard the term Outsider Art about a month ago when I saw an interview on facebook.
The Outsider Art Fair is this week in New York City (January 21-24) at the Metropolitan Pavilion.
In a New York Times Magazine article, I learned about the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California, where artists who have not had formal art education come to create. The work is considered more pure, raw, than mainstream art. Not always, but sometimes, the artists are physically or emotionally impaired.
In a Huffington Post article, Priscilla Frank discusses how a policeman learned to embrace his creative side.
I love this idea of self-taught art, art without academia.
Maybe it’s because in the eighties, I was accepted to the art program at NYU and things didn’t go well for me there.
In order to get in, I had to show a portfolio. I had to sit through a nerve-wracking interview. And when I got in, I was thrilled to be part of the New York City art community.
Until I wasn’t.
It didn’t go badly at first. In fact, during my first semester in the program, my drawing teacher appreciated and encouraged my style, which was heavily textured, strong contrast, little grey. And lots of white space. She didn’t judge the things I drew: a carrot peeler, an eggbeater, half a grapefruit.
You see I was 19, and newly married. That’s what I had in my apartment. That domesticity was my life.
My photography teacher showed black and white slides (with lots of grey) of a woman wearing a housecoat. This housewife was slumped on the couch, a broom near her side, a cigarette dangled from her lips. My teacher compared these photographs to my own, which told a different story of homemaking. In my photographs, my young son stood smiling and bottomless near a stacked dishwasher; and in a self-portrait, I proudly pushed out my pregnant belly.
The following semester, I had a male teacher. He was a prominent and respected figure in the school. He had a specific belief about art and artists. I didn’t fit into his schema. I was married with a child and I was economically well off, not a starving artist.
Soon enough I felt that I didn’t belong. I can’t tell you why he had such an influence over me but he did. And I learned years later, that he was fired because I wasn’t the only female student he’d bullied and shamed.
After I left the art program, I didn’t draw or paint for a long time. But years later, I made a few collages.
I'm slightly miserable because I have to go shopping. Truth be told, there are so many things I’d prefer to be doing. But I need clothes. And as much as I don’t like shopping, I do like having nice clothes in my closet. I wasn’t always like that. (See: Painting with Purple Crocodile and Black Leather).
But now I see clothes as a creative expression of who I am; and I like being able to match my outside to my inside. And when I don’t have the right items in my closet, I can’t do that.
I recently read an article that asked me to consider what my clothes conveyed about me.
- Do you dress to impress (a boss, a love interest, a friend)?
- Do you dress in a way that objectifies you?
- Do you dress in the same old, tired, clothes that might not express who you are today?
(This last one is unfortunate because I like to think that over the last five years, I was ahead of the times in wearing flare jeans, feather earrings and fringe purses. But my daughters are quick to tell me, this was not the case. In any event, for now, those things are back in style! Not tired and out of date at all.)
Things to do:
- Go through your closet.
2. Throw away, or give away, what’s not working for you.
3. If you haven’t gone shopping in a long time, GO.
4. Remember: What you wear reveals how you feel about yourself.
Like a squirrel storing up food for winter, I’ve been preparing too. In the last month, fearful of the upcoming, sometimes brutal, New York winter, I’ve been hoarding experiences; attending cultural institutions and events maximizing consumption for when reserves are low or, more precisely, for when I’m hibernating and can’t motivate myself to leave the house.
So while, for me, cold weather is certainly not the best part of New York City, the city's range of cultural offerings is a gift.
In the last month, I’ve been to a number of readings and heard authors discuss their new books.
Mary Karr- The Art of Memoir
Nicole Dweck- The Debt of Tamar
Elizabeth Gilbert- Big Magic
And I’ve been to museums.
At the New York Botanical Garden I saw the Frida Kahlo exhibit.
In an attempt to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit, I went to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden because I didn't know the New York Botanical Garden was a different place. I learned that day that there is a botanical garden in the Bronx, and also that even though I was in the wrong place, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is beautiful.
Next door, I visited the The Brooklyn Museum and saw the Faile exhibit, which was exciting and inspirational. The below made me want to run home and paint.
These painted pinball machines brought me back to my childhood and I couldn't wait to play in this dizzying yet electrifying atmosphere.
That same day, at the Brooklyn Museum, I stumbled on The Rise of Sneaker Culture. It was a fabulous bonus. Seeing a pair of white and green striped Adidas sneakers from when I was young and the Michael Jordon's my kids wore made me sentimental, but also reflective as I realized the inspiration behind the designer, all-black ones I happened to be wearing that day.
The new Whitney Museum which opened in the meatpacking district is gorgeous and when standing outside, on a terrace, you can see all at once: the Statue of Liberty, the Hudson River, the Freedom Tower and the Empire State Building.
Picasso sculptures are still on display at the MOMA. The exhibit runs until February 7, 2016. I am a huge Picasso fan and recommend you visit the museum before it's too late.
The fun continued at the Society of Illustrators in an exhibition titled: Batman: Black and White.
I visited all these places, and more, in a fervor, trying to soak it all in before it was too late, before the cold set in, or before my sometimes winter blues got the best of me. I did this instinctively, a form of survival.
(I'm saving television series for the middle of winter, stocked up, how women for generations before me preserved peaches.)
Ironically, I’m as confused as the bears and the squirrels must be because it’s November 8 and 65 degrees outside. I don’t know about them but I couldn’t be happier!
An additional note: The Faile exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum was supported by Allouche Gallery, which is scheduled to open in a new location, 86 Gansevort Street in New York City in early 2016. You can expect to see work by Faile, Dustin Yellin, Swoon and Keith Haring. I will be venturing out to visit, despite the cold, because it's going to be worth it!
My mother in law is well balanced. She has a chip on both shoulders.
Is there a family relationship more burdened?
Tempting fate, I went to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with my daughter-in-law, Margo, last week. We went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak about her new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Margo is pragmatic. She is a nurse and scientifically minded. On our way to BAM, Margo rattled off a list of over 32 things she’d done that day, including errands in Brooklyn and New Jersey, tending to her children, helping with homework, meeting with a painter and just before leaving her house, giving an injection to a pregnant friend.
I, on the other hand, tinkered with a story idea for most of the day.
And to tell you the truth, I was feeling a bit down about that. It is hard to stay home, facing an empty screen and have what appears to be nothing accomplished at the end of the day. Of course, I know this is not really true but Elizabeth Gilbert’s message couldn’t have come at a better time. She assured the creative souls in her audience that we were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing and she encouraged us to keep at it.
She talked about fairy dust and inspiration but she also talked about hard work and perseverance.
She talked about the voices in her head, how they take up space and how she lets them come alive: The Doubter, The Critic, Fear—and while that process didn’t sound so crazy to me, Margo diagnosed her with multiple personality disorder.
You’re probably wondering why my not necessarily artsy daughter-in-law wanted to hear Elizabeth Gilbert talk about creativity, especially considering she is one of the few people in the world who didn't even read Eat Pray Love. Or see the movie.
This is how it happened.
I was supposed to be going to the BAM with my husband but he forgot and bought tickets to the Giants game.
I invited my daughter but she opted out.
My son, Margo’s husband, was going to the football game with his dad and Margo didn't want to stay home. I promised her a drink after the reading and let’s just say it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting.
My oldest daughter kept smirking, doubting the whole prospect.
But she was wrong; because while Margo and I are not exactly alike (I drink vodka, she drinks tequila) we both loved the event, and the hole-in-the-wall bar we found afterwards with live music. Granted, it was a bit awkward when two men started talking to us but we left soon after and found a great restaurant. I know I’m in the right place when there are vegan options on the menu.
It’s not always easy for us to find time to get together much less share intimacies. But that night, we learned new things about each other.
A mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law: loving each other, respecting each other, caring about each other.
Now that’s art.
That’s Big Magic.
I read on the Internet and heard on television that Miley’s career was over. Miley had gone too far.
I remember vividly watching Madonna sing, “Like A Virgin,” rolling around on stage, erotically, during the MTV Video Awards in 1984. She wore a bride’s gown: corset, garter belt and veil.
Immediately, her performance was criticized but publicized, everyone was talking about her. No one had ever done what she’d done on stage before. People, shocked, said her career was over.
It seems that the shock factor is actually the very thing that boosts celebrities to further stardom because as it turns out, that was just the beginning of Madonna’s career. She took off after that. And the more she reinvented herself, and the more outrageous she became, the more we paid attention.
How does one even go about getting noticed today?
Everything is so amped up.
It used to be that a good movie had one or two pivotal or dramatic scenes. Now movies seem to be a string of those events, one car chase or bomb explosion after another.
It used to be that a novel writer had 100 pages to develop character or build plot before anything spectacular needed to happen. Then it became ten pages, then one. Now you have a sentence.
Audiences have no patience. They want to be shocked, stunned, entertained and amused immediately, and continuously.
At the 2015 MTV Music Video Awards, Miley sang, “Yeah I smoke pot… but I don’t give a f*ck.”
She danced in costumes that barely covered her nipples.
In the finale, her backup dancers were drag queens.
Her desire for attention, and or to shock, is preposterous, not to mention boring.
And yet, Miley is the one laughing all the way to the bank. I don’t believe, regardless of how tasteless her performance was, her career is over. In fact, just like Madonna, she’s got everyone talking.
(This is not to compare talent. I happen to like Madonna and I’m not a Miley fan although that is not the point of this post.)
What is the point is that we blame Miley. Sure she is responsible for herself and she is ultimately the one in control of what she wears and what she sings but we are complicit.
She didn’t write her own lyrics. She didn’t design her own costumes. She didn’t choreograph her own dance routines. And she didn’t invite herself to host the MTV Video Music Awards.
Society has made it so that the one who is the most theatrical or outrageous gets to be in the spotlight. In fact, Bill O’Reilly talked about Miley’s performance on his show, which got me to Google it, and then to watch it.
Bill O’Reilly talks about the President of the United States. He talks about aspiring presidents like Donald Trump. And he discussed Miley, which, from her agent’s perspective, is a good thing because bad press is better than no press.
We pretend we’re outraged by Miley’s behavior, that we want something different, even as we watch her twerk Robin Thicke on YouTube 203 million times.
Where are our values?
My grandsons ages, 6, 4 and 3, walk around singing,
“Shut up and dance with me.” “Uptown funk me up.” “Watch me whip, watch me nah nah.” “Bubble butt…” (I wouldn’t consider posting the rest of the words here but they are certainly shocking.)
Lately, I feel manipulated when books, or movies, or performances start out with such a bang. There is nowhere to go but down. And the drive to keep upping the ante is exhausting.
Think of it this way: I love ice cream. But an ice cream sundae would not taste as good after eating pizza, pasta, a turkey sandwich and an omelet. It’s just too much!
But we are gluttonous for more.
We forget that a little spice is a good thing but too much gives you indigestion.
I was scared and unsure:
Would people like what I wrote and how I wrote it?
Was I ready for the world of social media?
What if I made a grammatical mistake?
Well, I did make errors. Some I was able to fix, others I wasn’t.
And remarkably, I survived.
Reader comments kept me going.
Some of you responded directly on the blog site, some on Facebook, some on Instagram, some by private text message and many in person: at the grocery store, at parties and on the street.
(You’d be surprised how many people are hesitant to comment through social media. I was happy to learn, I wasn’t the only inhibited one.)
Tuesdays became my favorite day of the week as I woke to other bloggers liking my post and tracking how many people had read.
I heard from people I hadn’t talked to in 20 years, from people all over the country and yes, even an old boyfriend.
My work was read in Australia, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Spain, France, Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Israel, Lebanon, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and more.
A special thanks goes to my friends and family who let me write about them, their outrageous stories and vulnerable moments.
All year, friends teased that they had to watch what they said in front of me for fear they’d end up in a post.
I heard everything from, “Shhh, she’s going to write about you” to “It’s good Corie’s not here.” (Yes, people repeat these things to me.)
Looking for material or attempting to drum up good conversation, this blog has been the impetus for many a dinner table debate.
Over the course of this year, I wrote about topics that mattered to me.
Equal rights- Gay Marriage
Empathy- Still Alice
Parenting- Parenting Gone Well
Friendship- Friendship Matters
Sex- Masters of Sex
Education- Doodle Power
Addiction- Monkey See, Monkey Do
Writing- Writing: It Could Come Back to Bite You.
The Environment- Earth Day 2015.
I wrote about topics that peturbed me slightly- Pouting Face Emoji
And things that annoyed me greatly- A Tip for My Uber Driver.
And things I feared- Fear: The Good The Bad and The Ugly.
Writing about these topics made me focus on them, and in writing Gone Girl No More, I faced my apprehension, put myself out there, and finally got headshots!
Daring greatly (I'm a Brene Brown lover) I'm posting them here.
Help me choose the new From The Core photograph so I can get rid of the blurry one on my About Page.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the night my husband asked me to marry him so this is kind of a double anniversary for me.
And it’s appropriate that my blog about relationships and my marriage share an anniversary because as long as I’m married to my husband, I’ll always have plenty to write about!
P.S. Thanks for reading!! And don’t forget to pick a headshot favorite!!
My mother is extremely organized.
I tend to be less so.
She would’ve never made the mistake I made, which is that this post is a Mother’s Day post and it should’ve been posted last Tuesday, a few days before Mother’s Day, not after; but I got confused, which I do sometimes, and that’s why the post is late, which is another way we differ because my mother is never late. And I mean never.
This is the kind of mishap that has driven my mother to call me flighty, which no one has ever called her.
My mother is disciplined and straightforward.
I am less disciplined and more artsy, which is to say emotional; or as she would say, all over the place.
So I’ve held the belief we were nothing alike.
But when we both showed up wearing the same thing on a number of occasions, I began to wonder.
In addition, I’ve begun to speak as she does, which is significant because she uses words like boondocks and expressions like…
A feather in my cap
The early bird catches the worm.
I start many a sentence, when I’m talking to my kids, with “As grandma would say," and then I say things like…
I’ll eat my hat
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
They tell me I can’t do that. They tell me if I continue to use those phrases, I can’t pretend I’m not really using them.
And I've come to realize my mother and I are alike in other ways as well. We both get nervous when we travel, don’t do well in traffic and are electronically challenged. We both love coffee and hate shopping.
But here’s the thing I’ve only recently realized about how we are much more alike than I ever before thought.
My mother was an avid tennis player, and a winner too. She played for hours in the brutal New Orleans heat throughout my childhood. And when we moved to New York in 1980, she and her mixed doubles partner were ranked (by the United States Tennis Association) number one in the east.
As a little girl, she hit tennis balls with me, teaching me the game. “It doesn’t have to be the best shot. But never give up. Just get the ball over the net one more time,” she’d say. “That’s how you win.”
What she taught me was perseverance. Yes, it takes talent and dedication to craft to be a writer but what it takes even more than those things is perseverance. I read that a number of years back, and it stuck with me; because I believe it to be true. I could’ve given up a long time ago; but I didn’t.
And that determination is paying off.
As my mother would say, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.
Thankfully, my novel has been getting good feedback. Really good feedback.
But I got a rejection email this week.
Okay, I’m being dramatic. But that’s how it feels sometimes.
Nobody likes rejection.
And yet in the writing world, you are told, again and again, how getting rejected brings you one step closer to publication.
In On Writing, Stephen King says, “The nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”
Click on this link to see a list of best sellers rejected numerous times before they made it.
It is unbelievable to think that Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times before being accepted. The novel went on to sell 30 million copies.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling received 12 rejections in a row before being accepted. The Harry Potter series set records as the fastest-selling books in history with combined sales of 450 million.
And more recently, The Help was rejected 60 times before getting published. It has become a worldwide best-seller.
It’s always tough when a rejection letter arrives but there is something to be learned: a building of muscle, gained knowledge, a repertoire of experiences that brings you, little by little, closer to publication.
This is my favorite personal rejection story. I refer back to it when I feel discouraged.
As recently as five years ago, short stories were submitted for publication to literary journals by “snail mail”, a term referring to mail delivered by the U.S. postal service.
In my Brooklyn home, there is a mail slot in the front door and every Saturday the mail is delivered at the same time, which coincides with when my family eats lunch.
When the flap on the mail slot hits the frame, it makes a loud clang. For years, every time I heard the sound, I jumped up from my seat at the table and ran to the door to retrieve the mail, hoping I’d get an acceptance letter for any of the number of short stories I’d submitted.
More often than not, I found rejection letters, which is not uncommon in the literary world. Sometimes the rejection is standardized, and on sliver of paper no thicker than a pen, and sometimes there is a note, cordial and encouraging, but nonetheless, a rejection.
Now and then, there was an acceptance letter and that intermittent reinforcement, just like a win at the slot machine, kept me hooked. And so today, even though correspondence with literary journals happens through email, when the mail slot clangs against its frame, I have to stop myself, a Pavlovian response, from running to the door.
The craving for feedback from editors and the desire for publication is intense. And so one summer when we moved to New Jersey, and had our mail forwarded, it was quite distressing when all of it was lost, and I didn’t receive a single piece of mail for over six weeks.
I worried that my dreams of publication would go unrealized if my response letters were gone for good. All that hard work: the writing and editing of the story, targeting appropriate journals, preparing cover letters and stuffing envelopes- all of it- a waste of time.
When the mail was finally found, my husband picked it from the post office. He brought it home in a black trash bag, the mail filling the bag like fallen leaves.
I set the bag on the kitchen counter and separated the bills, newsletters and invitations from the self addressed stamped envelopes that I’d sent to editors around the country.
I opened the letters, hopeful.
Note that it was unusual to receive all these responses at once but because of the mail mishap, I got this particular view.
In response to a specific short story, I got three replies, and I lined them on the counter next to one another.
1. A standard rejection letter. 2. A note saying my short story had potential and that if I was willing to do significant revisions, I could re-submit the story. 3. An acceptance letter.
One story. Three points of view.
There’s a reason the picture of me on my About Page was blurry. It’s because I couldn’t be bothered to get a good photograph of myself. And so I used my cell phone to take a picture of only me from a group photo of twelve friends. I meant to get a headshot, I just wasn't making it a priority. But when the North American Review wanted to include a photo, along with my bio, when they published my essay, On Writing and Distractions, on their blog, I felt ridiculous sending them my blurry picture.
I’d talked to three photographers and got prices for headshots and yet I hadn’t scheduled a sitting. What was stopping me from getting my picture taken?
At first, I thought I was just being lazy, but then I realized it was something more.
I came to this: I wasn’t taking my career, or myself, seriously.
In second grade, I wrote plays. Not only did I write plays, I gave myself the lead part. I was boisterous and confident. That year, on my report card, my teacher wrote, Corie is a flirt.
I was humiliated.
My teacher reduced the relationships I had with the boys in my class to flirtatious, instead of acknowledging that I was both writer and director of my own plays and that I was in charge.
I was the Lena Dunham of my generation!
In fifth grade, my teacher assigned me the role of “The Heart” (underscoring my compassionate nature, a much prized quality in girls) in our, not written by me, school play. It was a no-speaking part.
By the time I got to middle school, I no longer performed in plays. Somewhere along the way, I faded.
In the Wall Street Journal essay, What ‘Boyhood’ Shows Us About Girlhood, Dr. Sharon Marcus and Dr. Anne Skomorowsky point out how Samantha, the young girl in the film, at first, dominates, teases and outperforms her brother, Mason. Samantha is outspoken and confident. She challenges her controlling stepfather.
In adolescence however, Samantha begins to “disappear.” She speaks with uncertainty and develops a nervous laugh.
Mason, on the other hand, develops nicely. He learns to speak with assurance. He is full of ideas.
At school, Mason is asked questions like: What can you bring to it that nobody else can? He is encouraged to express his individuality. His father tells him, I believe in you.
And Samantha is asked: Do you want to be a cooperative person, who is compassionate and helps people out? Or do you want to be a self-centered narcissist?
Gillian Flynn, the author of the novel Gone Girl, explains that she wrote the book to counter the notion that women are "naturally good" and to show that women are just as violently minded as men are.
I think Flynn tried to do more than that.
Amy, the female protagonist in the novel, says “Nick will spend the night of our anniversary buying these men drinks, going to strip clubs and cheesy bars, flirting with 22-year-olds…”
It seems clear that no woman would appreciate that behavior from her spouse and yet Amy says condescendingly about herself, “I am being a girl.”
When did being a girl become a bad thing?
After a few years, in an unfulfilling relationship (not a spoiler since you learn this on page 24) Amy, educated and competent, literally disappears, a metaphor for Amy losing herself, figuratively unseen.
Pop culture shines a stark light on girl culture and how girls are encouraged to take a backseat to boys. We learn to make ourselves less visible.
Yes, I was raised with Carol Brady as a role model, and yes it is true things have changed for girls to some extent, but not enough.
There’s only one way around this issue, and that’s through it. Girls can’t be afraid to be seen.
I ended up booking an appointment for a headshot shortly after coming to the realization that I should start taking myself more seriously.
My grandmother, Freda, brushed her beauty parlor- coiffed hair at a gilded light-blue vanity table. She dabbed her wrists with Bal a’ Versaille perfume and never left her apartment without a full-face of make-up.
She painted her eyelashes with electric blue mascara and her fingernails, bright red.
I care about what I look like, I do. But for most of my adult life, I couldn’t care as much as my grandmother did.
Believing it to be a waste of time, not to mention narcissistic, I couldn’t be bothered to change my jewelry, or my purse, to match my outfit. Plus, more often than not, these acts led to calamity.
I misplaced jewelry. I forgot my wallet at home.
The truth is that as a young adult, I devalued fashion and judged how much energy my grandmother put into her looks, always calling attention to herself.
I don’t anymore. I respect it and wish I had the many colorful crocodile purses or Gucci silk blouses she gave me.
What she wore was how my grandmother expressed herself.
This was her art.
She was the canvas: every splash of color, how every fabric draped, the clanking of bracelets on her arm.
My grandmother didn’t have the opportunity to attend NYU’s art program or Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, as I did. She did what she could with what she had.
She wore colorful, long, flowing skirts and called herself a gypsy. Other days, strutting around New York City, well into her eighties, she wore black leather pants.
Last weekend, I went to the Museum of Modern Art and saw Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibit.
Matisse referred to his process as painting with scissors. And it occurred to me that my grandmother painted with clothes.
For texture: a snakeskin belt, a fur coat, a silk scarf.
And color: purple was never just purple. It was aubergine; and on her palette there was milk white, canary yellow, coal black and robin egg blue.
For as long as I can remember, while I adored my grandmother, I thought when it came to fashion, we were completely different.
Rebelling, I undervalued what was in vogue, attempting to carve out my own identity. But when we make decisions based on unconscious motivations, we cut ourselves off from our true selves.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Jung.
I have come to appreciate fashion, and to see it as art; but for many years, I reduced my grandmother to a mannequin and saw her belief system as flawed. I went the opposite way, finding fashion frivolous and unnecessary. But in doing that I was being controlled by my family’s value system around beauty just as completely as if I had become a fashionista.
The Matisse cutouts are made up of positive and negative shapes. The positive space is generally considered the subject and the negative space is not the subject.
The negative space is equally as important as the positive space; and paying attention to the negative space can have a surprising effect on a work of art.
In studying the Matisse cutouts at the museum, I came to see what’s conscious in us as positive space; and what’s unconscious as negative space.
It’s in exploring both, what’s conscious and unconscious, that we come to know who we really are and what we really want.
I don’t have to care about fashion the way my grandmother did; but I don’t have to not care either.