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Me: Part 2

Us and boysAfter a couple of years in the country, we relocated back to Nashville where I went through two years of high school before another move to Murfreesboro, an hour south of Nashville. During my high school, I got involved in school programs, ranging from sports – basketball, track and swimming – to acting (yes, acting!) and church (I was secretary of our CYO group) and even earned a 100 hour badge as a candystriper volunteering at the local V.A. hospital.

Despite all these activities, the transition to Murfreesboro was tough since I’d left some close, wonderful friends behind during a crucial time in my teenage years to try to gain acceptance in a school where most everyone had grown up together. I processed my feelings in writing and escaped into books even more. In fact, I often got in trouble for reading off-topic in class — even honors English class.

I absolutely loved writing and felt comfortable doing so. So much so, that in college, I frequently wrote other student’s term papers along with my own.  I left school to earn a paycheck, married young and soon had a couple of children and life as a stay at home mom bringing in a little side money as a sportswriter for a local weekly paper and then working as a stringer for another local newspaper.

My tumultuous six-year-marriage ended so I entered the ranks of the 9-5 employed in customer service. A few years later I remarried a wonderful man — my best friend — and continued to work, too busy to write. I returned to school and received a B.A. (cum laude, I might add) in Mass Comm from Middle Tennessee State University. While there, I was writing for the school newspaper and as a stringer with the Tennessean, covering some random stories from a major pollution issue to the cotton crop’s prospects to tragedies such as a young boy dying from diabetes.

After graduating, I moved into a fulltime reporters role with a suburban Nashville daily paper and wrote for a few years longer before deciding a corporate communications job would be more lucrative. I simultaneously joined forces with a friend of my brothers and co-wrote a screenplay and, with my partner’s approval, wrote the subsequent novel based on the story. It gathered dust on a shelf as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raged on but I’m glad to say became my first published novel, Empty Sky, which was finally published in 2014.

The art came into play this way: My two sons joined different branches of the military and served in Iraq. They both served in the infantry and both were embroiled in some of the worst fighting during our years there. My eldest, a Marine, was in Nasariyah in the beginning of the war which was described as “a Turkey Shoot, with our Marines as the targets.”  My younger son was in the mechanized infantry in Anbar Province where half-ton IEDs were the widow-makers and son-stealers.

I’ll be honest. It unbalanced me for a few years. Not that I became a raging alcoholic or ended up in an institution. Rather, I let anger and outrage over what I perceived as an egregiously ill-advised course of action eat away at me. I was bitter and intense and outspoken and not a pleasant person to be around.

Then I found art.

My sons were stateside and safe and I was able to let down my guard. With a makeshift studio beckoning, I taught myself some basics and took classes and workshops and found a community of fellow artists to paint with.  It was the release I needed and at once my soul felt so much lighter!

Technological advances sent my consulting business the way of travel agencies, and forced me to find steady employment. I did, and have since moved to Florida with my husband. Thankfully, we have a great home with a great studio and separate office where I can paint or write as is my inclination. I decided after finally publishing Empty Sky last year to take a stab at completing the sketch of another story I’d started years ago. Over this past several months I finished it. It is my sweet second novel The Gray Lady of Long Branch and it’s being released August 25.  I hope you’ll consider reading it!

 

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An artist’s birth in darkness. (Book Review of David Sandum’s I’ll Run.. Memoir)

A memoir about Depression and Discovering Art by TwitterArtExhibit founder David Sandum
A memoir about Depression and Discovering Art by TwitterArtExhibit founder David Sandum

Four years ago, Sweden-born painter David Sandum came onto my radar promoting his “Twitter Art Exhibit” (TAE)  It was his philanthropic idea to put out a call to artists on Twitter for small postcard-sized works he could sell to raise funds for a local nonprofit based in his hometown of Moss, Norway.

The genius behind the successful TAE was a very simple, resource-light idea: broadcast the call to artists only on Twitter with a link to David’s blog, which offered more details about the charity organization and specs for artists’ entries. That first exhibit garnered works from around the world – a total of 264 postcards were sent from artists in 24 countries. It raised the money to buy 221 new children’s books for the Moss public library.

Cut to March 2014, when his Twitter Art Exhibit took the Orlando art community by storm. This time, there were more than 600 participating artists and the event raised $7,050 for the Center for Contemporary Dance Special Needs Program in Winter Park, Florida. Orlando is a short drive from my home and studio, so I not only contributed a pair of works to the cause, but attended opening night to meet David and his lovely wife, as well as the other directors of the growing organization and TAE fans and fellow artists from around the country and abroad as well.

After connecting my face with my twitter handle (@MoesseArtist), David learned about my first book – Empty Sky – and we discussed writing and publishing. He’s about to launch his own book and I daresay it is one very important work, because of its content and the person he is.

Though born in Sweden, David came to the States to attend college. Upon graduation, he was about to return to Scandinavia, he became deeply depressed. The condition defined his life for many years thereafter and he was hospitalized and institutionalized and spent more than a decade in therapy. David took to art as a form of therapy and in 2002 had his first exhibit.

He tells his story in a gritty memoir written about the healing process, the artists who inspired him  and how art ultimately saved him. I am a tightwad but have purchased an advance copy of the book  I’ll Run Till the Sun Goes Down: A Memoir About Depression & Discovering Art  because I was blown away by the advance chapter I was sent to read and review, and I know that David has jumped through a tremendous number of hoops to gain copyright permission to include 40+ images of the works of some of the artists he references in his tome. We’re talking Van Gogh here, people!

Speaking of Van Gogh, I’m an admitted latecomer to art and may be off base, but I think his brushwork reflects a strong influence from Van Gogh and Edvard Munch. See for yourself by checking out examples of his earlier works at this blog post by James Day. For more information about David’s book and to preorder it, visit his Publisher’s author page.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Leave a comment here or tweet about this post using the hashtag #SandumPreorder will receive a 20% off coupon code for an autographed copy of I’ll Run Till the Sun Goes Down AND all those who preorder a book will be entered into a drawing for a signed, limited-edition etching (below) by the artist/author himself entitled “Writing My Memoir.” A total of 10 will be given away.

Etching by artist/author David Sandum entitled "Writing my Memoir"
Etching by artist/author David Sandum entitled “Writing my Memoir”

 

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Aggrandize the damage

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks withgold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.
When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks withgold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.

Growing up as a middle child (seventh of nine), I was the queen of hand-me-downs and leftovers. I also got left at stores more than once as my mother shepherded the rest of the kids into the old blue dodge station wagon not realizing one little chickadee was playing quietly alone in some corner of the store or another. I vividly remember one of the incidents and still recall the image of the vehicle driving off as I stood there. Bear in mind, this was decades before cellphones. Thankfully, the shopkeeper was a lovely lady. With a great duck pull-toy with cool bright yellow paddles that spun. No worries there!

A few years later, at the age of 10 or 11, I suffered third-degree burns in a kitchen accident and was in the hospital (Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital) for nearly six weeks. In a perverse way, it became a gift to me. For once in my life, I was THE CENTER of attention. My parents came to visit, brought friends, cards, gifts from people I hadn’t heard from in ages. My demeanor was bright and cheery. So much so, according to my mother, that some of the physicians would come into my room to get “cheered up” themselves. Despite the pain and suffering (don’t get me wrong, there was a ton of that at times), there was some great good to be had.

BUT, I was a competitive swimmer before the accident and went back to swimming even after the burns on my legs and thighs had healed, though I bore dark, thick visible scars. The doctors had deemed it unwise to perform plastic surgery and skin grafts at that age. I learned to shrug off the stares and comments of those unable to hide their reaction to my unsightly scars and developed a thick inner skin to match the thick scar tissue that encased much of my upper thighs and behind one knee.

As I got older, I realized those scars made me who I was — a deep and insightful person — far more interested in what was below a person’s surface than the exterior package. I never did get the skin graft surgery. In the end, I learned to celebrate my scars. Embrace them.Revel in them. That is why, when I saw this image, I had to co-opt it.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have a fracture, scar or chip that you have learned to celebrate?