Please read this and consider sharing it on your blog or on Facebook or Twitter. Because everyone matters. Thank you.
In this blog I bear my soul. I’ve suffered some rather traumatic family losses in my lifetime and have overcome some rough stuff: the loss of my only child; an infant son, a 40-year dysfunctional, (but comfortable), relationship with grief, suicide and drug addiction in the family, and everything from quitting a 35 yr smoking habit, to overcoming prescription drug addiction, to my challenges with bipolar disorder.
Now, at the age of 54, I’m facing a whole new world through clear eyes! Everything is fresh and exciting, and challenging and scary . . . and I’m embracing it all!
In this blog, I share (purge) my past experiences, however painful, raw, or revealing. And I share new adventures . . . both emotionally and physically out in the world. I take you into the world of bipolar disorder . . . or maybe to the local cancer center to meet cancer patients who heal through their art, or to an art gallery exhibition, to the local park to snap pics, or maybe downtown to our wonderful City of Detroit!
I’m on the cusp . . . of change.
I believe in celebrating the people and places around me. I will seldom vent, rant, or approach something in a negative way. If I don’t enjoy an art show, or a new business, or a new artist, I simply won’t blog about it. Anything else is just too easy. I look for the good, the funny, the kind, the loving, and the inspirational things; and they are EVERYWHERE! I hope to make you laugh, or cry, or maybe even think about things a bit differently.
So, please, join me on this beautiful, incredible, painful, and amazing journey called life. And please, share your thoughts with me by leaving a comment on my blog! Also, to “Follow” me on my journey, just enter your email address in the “Follow” box and you will be notified by email each time I post a new blog entry.
Thanks for visiting! Be safe. Be careful. And please . . . remember to be kind. xoxoJulia
*Blog content & photographs © 2013 by Julia Kovach, unless otherwise noted.
I think I’m turning into a bit of a Blog Attention Whore.
Good grief. I wonder if there is a support group for that.
In my quest to keep things interesting and fun, and in an effort to lighten up and step outside of my comfort zone, I’m finding myself doing some pretty unusual things.
Since I use my own pics in my blogs, I now carry a camera everywhere I go. Everything I see is a potential photograph, and every photograph, a story.
Much to my chagrin, and the chagrin of others, I’m discovering that there is nothing I won’t do for the sake of the blog. Well, almost nothing.
One night while partying with girlfriends, one of them said, “We’d better cool down or we’re going to end up in jail!”
My response? “Oh, that would be a great blog!”
Sheesh. I seriously may need help.
On Halloween, a holiday that I’ve never enjoyed, I made an attempt to funny-up and embrace the day. While driving about with my good friend, Patti Petroline, we passed a side-of-the-road pumpkin patch.
“We should buy a pumpkin, carve it out, put it on my head, and then snap some pics for my blog!” I screamed, as I pulled the car over and turned it around.
Patti, the forever spontaneous and always-game adventurer, and my self-appointed personal Smart Phone Photographer, was up for the challenge. What resulted was, “A Halloween Dream”, http://wp.me/p2ckKM-jM.
Who would have guessed that this crabby, claustrophobic, hot-flashing, quirky old beotch would end up doing this?
We had a blast and laughed for hours. It was truly one of my finest moments.
That brings us to this past Friday night at River’s Edge Gallery in Wyandotte, for the opening reception of “Pure Genius”.
And it was.
Pure genius, that is.
That “River’s Edge Gallery Gang” just makes me all crazy. Crazy excited. And crazy inspired. But be warned, you’ve gotta watch these folks, because before you know it, you will be seeing, feeling, and experiencing all sorts of unexpected things. You’ll find yourself crying over things you don’t understand, falling in love with things that you can’t explain, and dreaming of things you can’t imagine.
Sometimes you might even see yourself up on the wall . . . being displayed through someone else’s eyes . . . in their art.
It blows me away.
This show was outstanding. But it was different from others I’ve attended. Actually, there was one REALLY BIG difference.
And her name was Cinderella.
She is a beautiful Albino Burmese Python snake that is NINE FEET LONG and WEIGHS 45 POUNDS. She and her owner were given permission to attend the show, as an opportunity to educate those attendees who were willing to walk over to her table and meet her.
Not me. No sir. No thanks.
I’m not a snake person.
Are you kidding me?
I SCREAM AT THE SIGHT OF HER FOOD!
When I found a mouse in my apartment, I called the Landlord, hysterical and from high atop a dining room chair. And afterwards, I sat in the same chair sweating, panting, and sobbing over my plight of husband-less-ness and my involuntary independence. I experienced it again when I discovered a large colony of gianormous slugs on my patio. And yes, I know they like beer. I supplied their slimy nasty-looking asses with a can of Budweiser one night. Sure, they drank it. And then they sludged away back home . . . all slow and buzzed up, while leaving a trail of ik.
But I digress.
So, there we stood, in awe, at Cinderella’s table. Patti stood much closer to it than I did. She’s the calm one. I am not. I would be the sweating, hyperventilating, twitching one.
At heart, I am an animal rights advocate. I don’t agree with wild animals being kept as pets or being hauled around from place to place for display, but honestly, I didn’t consider any of that.
She was beautiful. And I was mystified, captivated, and horrified, all at the same time. Her owner seemed to adore her and has been in the business of educating people with reptiles for many years. And I kind of agree with that.
So, in the spirit of stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing my limits, and being the Blog Attention Whore that I suspect myself to be, I said, “I should hold her and snap a picture for my blog!”
So I did.
I didn’t anticipate her weight or the feeling of her incredibly strong solid mass of muscle wrapped around my upper body.
It . . . freaked . . . me . . . out.
I don’t think I was even breathing.
In this photo, I was smiling through gritted teeth and begging Patti, “Did you get the pic? Did you get the pic?”
As soon as she said yes, I panicked inside and had to get the snake off of me . . . like, right now.
It looks like I’m pretty upset, but I was just in a hurry.
As soon as I got away from her, my adrenaline soared, my heart pounded, my knees began to shake, and my hands visibly trembled. I kept saying, “I did it! I did it!”
And I must have looked every bit a wreck, because the owner kept saying, “You did great! You did great!”
He knew how frightened I was as I approached their table. Later he told me that I was really brave. He said doing something risky isn’t brave unless you’re afraid. I agreed.
Much later, Patti and I determined that the series of photographs was taken in approximately 20 SECONDS. That’s how long I lasted. 20 SECONDS.
Several hours and a half a Xanax later, we were looking at a couple of pretty amazing photographs that I deem frame-worthy.
Because I did it . . .
. . . even though I was afraid.
And it was a good thing.
SIDE NOTE: The next day I Googled our little Cinderella, and read this, “The Albino Burmese Python are readily available but grow up to be huge snakes. This is one of the snakes that needs a healthy dose of caution, so think twice (or more) before getting one as a pet. Although Burmese Pythons are generally quite docile, they are incredibly strong, and it just takes a single mistake in handling them, to have disastrous results.”
This poem was inspired by last year’s experience at the “Out of The Darkness Community Walk”, which benefits The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, (see my blog: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-gC). FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THIS YEAR’S WALK (OCT 13th, 2013) OR TO MAKE A DONATION, PLEASE VISIT: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=2358. Thank you.
You’re hurt and bruised, feeling empty and used
You think you’re lost and you know you’re confused
Your problems are different from mine
But if you need it, I’ll give you my time.
You’ve found your voice, but you don’t know the words
You’re screaming for help, but you still feel unheard
You just want your pain to end
Come take my hand, my friend.
And Out of The Darkness together we’ll walk
I’ll be the listener who hears when you talk
We’ll reach out for comfort and learn how to cope
We’ll walk Out of The Darkness . . . and into the hope.
For more information on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, or to make a donation, visit: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=2358.
GERRI ASAM TRAGER, AFSP Board Member, AFSP Community Outreach Volunteer, Metro Detroit/Ann Arbor Chapter, Phone: 810-229-4266. The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org . Also see: www.outofthedarkness.org and survivoroutreachMI@gmail.
If you have lost someone you love to suicide: www.afsp.org/survivingsuicideloss
*IF YOU ARE IN SUICIDAL CRISIS, PLEASE CALL 1-800-273-TALK (8255)*
Because everyone matters.
On Sunday, October 7, 2012, I attend a community walk called, “Out of the Darkness”, at Lake Erie Metro Park in Brownstown, Michigan.
“Proceeds from this event benefit the AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION (AFSP), the leading national not-for-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the understanding and prevention of suicide through research, education, and advocacy, and to reaching out to those suffering with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.”
Every 14.2 minutes, a person successfully takes their own life. And every minute of the day, a person attempts to take their own life. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. And it is the 3rd leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.
This event is personal to me because in 1996, my sister, Chris, took her own life. She was 38 years old. I still struggle with this loss, and the grief and torment that accompany it. And due to my struggles with bipolar disorder, I have come dangerously close to losing myself (1 of every 5 people suffering with bipolar disorder takes their own life).
From left: My sister, Chris, and me, as children.
Intelligent and compassionate Gerri Asam Trager is the organizer of the “Out of the Darkness Community Walk” for the downriver area. She and her amazing band of beautiful volunteers are the primary reason for this event’s huge success.
Gerri Asam Trager, on right. (Photo taken from AFSP Downriver Out of the Darkness Walk, Facebook event page, by Bob Eccles).
It is a cloudy, chilly day, but attendance is high, as are the spirits of the organizers, volunteers, and walkers.
This beautiful woman, Jaqueline Worthey, a poetry reader, graces the stage by reading a special poem every year at this event.
We are blessed with the kind and compassionate, former Detroit Lion’s football player, Eric Hipple, who speaks to us straight from the heart.
After losing his own 15-year-old son in 2000 to suicide, Hipple now travels the country and gives speeches to High Schools, Youth Groups, the U.S. Military, and Corporations, on suicide prevention and Mental Illness. His book, “Real Men Do Cry”, published in 2009, discusses his playing career with the Lions and his experiences with depression, grief, and suicide prevention.
We are then introduced to the lovely and extremely talented, NEENUH. There are no words to describe her beautiful voice.
Connect with Neenuh on Facebook. She performs solo shows (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica) around Downriver, MI. Search “Neenuh” on YouTube and you will find uploads of her videos.
And we are delighted by the amazing talent of Fiddler, Mick Gavin, who plays onstage AND along our walking path. Wonderful!
Gavin was born in Co. Clare, Ireland. Since the 1970’s, he has performed concerts with many traditional Irish performers in the Chicago and Detroit areas. Mick now teaches Irish fiddle throughout the Detroit metropolitan area. Three of his students took 2nd at the All-Ireland in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 2002.
The 3.5-mile walk begins on this gorgeous Autumn afternoon.
Even the canines walk the walk!
Afterwards, we are treated to hot food and refreshing beverages, and a safe place for good conversation. There is also a raffle which offers terrific prizes of food and services generously donated by some of our local restaurateurs and merchants.
We bond over our losses and experiences, but join together to celebrate life . . . and bring about change.
AND OUT OF THE DARKNESS . . .
. . . COMES HOPE.
For information or to make a donation, (donations for walks can be made thru 12/31/12 for this year), contact:
GERRI ASAM TRAGER, AFSP Board Member, AFSP Community Outreach Volunteer, Metro Detroit/Ann Arbor Chapter. Phone: 810-229-4266. The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org . Also see: www.outofthedarkness.org and survivoroutreachMI@gmail.
If you have lost someone you love to suicide: www.afsp.org/survivingsuicideloss
*IF YOU ARE IN SUICIDAL CRISIS, PLEASE CALL 800-273-TALK 8255)*
I don’t know a thing about art. All I know is how it makes me feel. But I haven’t let that stop me from exploring this aw-inspiring means of expression. No way. In the last few years I have been attending art shows and gallery receptions, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that art is always about so much more than art.
Regardless of the name of the exhibit, the theme of the show, or even the title of a painting, creative expression far exceeds any label we may attach to it.
Art is all about life.
And boy did I learn that this past week. I hardly know where to begin, so I’ll start at the start.
Meet Patricia Izzo, award-winning Fine Arts Photographer and painter.
Patricia’s a pretty heavy hitter in the art world. Her fine art photography has been featured in numerous national publications like American Photo Magazine, Home Décor, and Woman’s Day, just to name a few. And her images can be seen in the 2010 Harold and Kumar III movie. She’s had extensive exhibits throughout the Detroit Metropolitan area, the East Coast, and Traverse City Museums, and she published a fine art photography book called, “FRAGILE AWAKENINGS” in 2008. She’s a board member or is active in, just about anything that promotes the arts. She creates it, teaches it, promotes it, changes it, advances it, and shares it with children. And she is the artist-in-residence at River’s Edge Gallery, right here in Wyandotte, Michigan.
I see her as a compassionate woman, a creative genius, and a . . . well, a sort of spiritual guide.
I run into Patricia at the DOWNRIVER COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS (DCA), in Wyandotte, and she tells me about her involvement in an upcoming art show there, called, “ART HEALS”.
She mentions something about some art classes, some kids, and the Josephine Ford Cancer Center, and I eagerly agree to meet her there the following week.
I think I’m just going to watch a couple of art classes and, then at the end of the week, go to an art show. But Patricia is a little bit sneaky . . . she is going to take me on a life changing journey instead. I just don’t know it yet.
As I drive to meet her the following Tuesday, I am flooded in memories of my small encounter with cervical cancer over 20 years ago, my subsequent surgery and cure, and the fear that I still feel all these years later when going for a pap test. I think of my sister who passed away six years ago from lung cancer, of my friend who lost her breasts, and my other dear friend who lost her mom. I think of my childhood friend who is currently undergoing chemotherapy right here at this facility, and how I’ve never visited her during her treatment. Sheesh. How did I not think of all of this earlier? I blink back the tears and swallow hard to get the lump in my throat . . . down.
I arrive at my first visit to the Josephine Ford Cancer Center to observe the Children’s Support Group as they gather to make paintings for the upcoming art show.
My photographs are limited to the art and the creative process, so I hope you enjoy them! And hospital gowns are worn as smocks so the acrylic paints won’t stain clothes.
The room isn’t gloomy and dark with talk of pain or cancer. The kids lighten me and I am blown away by their incredible wisdom and insight, and their uncanny ability to remain silly and playful. I take their full impact head-on and heart-full.
Hands this small should never need to know the word cancer.
Below is a photo of each child’s artwork both in progress, and as displayed at the “ART HEALS” exhibition. I will let the art speak for itself.
Painting: “STRENGTH”, by artist Alex Rupp.
Painting: “FLOWER CHILD”, by artist Amanda Rupp.
Painting: “ME”, by artist Chad Donahue.
Painting: “PLAY”, by artist Evan McKeith.
Painting: “POSITIVE”, by artist Jadem McKeith.
Painting: “FIGHT CANCER”, by artist Jared Sturdz.
Painting: “GO TEAM CANCER”, by artist Marissa Lewandowski.
Painting: “REACH YOUR GOLE”, by artist Melissa Rupp.
Painting: “VICTORY”, by artist Rachel Sturdz.
The oldest artist in the class is 18 years old and wears this message on her t-shirt (front and back):
She also creates the “FLOWER CHILD” painting. I just adore this girl! I think we are soul sisters!
As the day draws to a close, Patricia casually invites me to a Women’s Art Therapy Class that is meeting on Thursday. Their art will also be displayed at Thursday night’s show. Of course, I am interested and once again, I agree to meet her at the Josephine Ford Cancer Center.
And once again, I am unprepared for the creativity of the artists, and the spirituality and power of very wise and humorous women. The short time I spend with them is enough to cause marvel at their uniqueness, and be affected by all .
I title this photograph, “Beautiful Warriors”. True strength does not have to be loud and hard; these women are kind, compassionate, and incredibly strong. “It is the rain that grows flowers, not the thunder.”
Artists, Left to right: Sue Spotts, Ruth Ann Brayman, Nancy Pitel (artist who subs as teacher), Patricia Izzo, Shirley McBroom, Brenda Kahn, (not pictured, Deborah Helton).
The artists and their work at the “ART HEALS” exhibition:
Painting: “PEARL EARRINGS”, by artist Sue Spotts. Sue has discovered her enormous talent only in recent years and is humble and casual about it. She says of my writing craft, “you’re just using a different brush”. I love that. A very gentle and humorous warrior.
Painting: “MEDITATION GARDEN”, by artist Ruth Ann Brayman. Ruth gives glory to God by hiding a cross in each of her beautifully detailed paintings. She has the most lovely eyes; painted like an early summer morning blue sky misted by a light fog. A sweet and loving warrior.
Painting: “CABIN IN THE MEADOW”, by artist Shirley McBroom. Shirley’s incredible artwork shows perception, depth, and a wonderful natural talent with shadows. She reluctantly agrees to this photo, although she is as lovely as her painting. A warm and gracious warrior.
Painting: “EXHALING HOPE”, by artist Brenda Kahn. Brenda hiked 8.5 miles around the mountainous trails shown in this painting. We talk briefly, but intimately, and I realize that I, too, am a cancer survivor. My eyes brim with tears. She welcomes me warmly and somehow, I feel honored to be included in such elegant company. A gentle and graceful warrior.
Painting: “KAYAK CALLING”, by artist Deborah Helton. Debbie is currently working on a painting of a cabin she has up north in the woods. We bond in agreement that it, “looks like a small piece of Heaven!” She herself is like a delicate, but strong flower that one might find growing in the shade of a beautifully wooded piece of paradise. A soft and kind warrior.
Completing the “ART HEALS” exhibition, are paintings created by the children of the SandCastles Children’s Grief Support Group.
And from the mouths of babes . . .
After visiting with the artists and with other admirers such as myself, I go home with my creative hungers satisfied and my heart full. I feel blessed and grateful.
On Friday morning I rise, tired, but still basking in the afterglow and glory of an incredible week and amazing people.
But my day begins early today.
Once again I walk into the Josephine Ford Cancer Center. My friend smiles and says, “Oh, Julia, you made it! It’s so good to see you!”
I swear she’s got the elegance of Grace Kelly.
Soon, we celebrate that her lab numbers are up and while she is getting her chemo, we spend the time in intimate chat and laughter. I treasure the moment and mark it as forever precious.
I look over at her and smile.
I have come full circle. What a journey.
A special thank you to Patricia Izzo, all the artists, the Downriver Council for the Arts, and the wonderful staff at the Josephine Ford Cancer Center, for welcoming me and graciously allowing me to share in your magic. You are all a treasured surprise and have deeply touched me. I hope that I have done you justice; I fear that I have not.
The words have yet to be created for those as wonderful as you.