What’s Going On
Elizabeth Coffey at InLight
This past weekend 1708 Gallery hosted its 15th Annual InLight Exhibit. The artists in this show use light to create or illumine their works in unusual ways. It moves to different locations every year and this year was set up in Richmond’s Joseph Bryan park just a 10 minute walk from Marie’s and my house. Elizabeth Coffey, a member of Innsbrook Toastmasters Club was one of the artists featured in the curated show. Elizabeth paints on lace. Her work is a commentary on how we see women as fragile, like lace, but both are deceptively strong and resilient.
Her work was hung from trees and the lights would illuminate them individually and then move on to another. These fleeting images were intriguing and lured the observer to confirm they had seen what they thought they had seen the next time the painting was in the light.
Marie and I invited the members of the club to our house and after noshing and sipping we strolled down to the park. It took a while to find Elizabeth’s exhibit. We were thrilled to connect with her and she was happy for our support.
We’ve seen her work on the screen during Zoom meetings, but this was our first time seeing her work in the “flesh” and it was mesmerizing.
Starting Friday January 6, 2023 I will be hosting an hour long radio show on the International Business Growth Radio Network. IBGR is the number one international internet business radio station. I’m excited and a little intimidated by the idea of filling an hour show each week.
The show will be called Stories Matter. My intention is to focus on the role storytelling plays in leadership and corporate culture. Over the course of the first season January through March I’m inviting leaders I’ve worked with over the years to share a story they’ve used to initiate or sustain change; or to instill values into the leaders they were growing.
Once “aired” the segments will be distributed as podcasts.
… stories do not cloak reality but create it, triggering cascades of perception and motivation. The proof is in brain scans: When we hear a fact, a few isolated areas of our brain light up, translating words and meanings. When we hear a story, however, our brain lights up like Las Vegas, tracing the chains of cause, effect, and meaning. Stories are not just stories; they are the best invention ever created for delivering mental models that drive behavior.
– The Culture Code
Robbie Burns wrote in To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, / Gang aft agley.”
His sentiment was although the mouse had lost her house when it was turned up by the ploughman, she was lucky, because in her limited perspective on life she only had to deal with the present, while humanity is saddled with knowledge of the past and anticipation of the future. Hence, we know the futility of our dreams and our efforts to achieve them.
My momma’s momma was of Scot’s heritage. She had been raised in the Blue Ridge mountains and had been flooded out and burned out before my PawPaw and she moved to the lowlands seeking work during the depression. She shared Robbie’s dour outlook and was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Growing up under Nanny’s influence Momma adopted a ‘gather ye rosebuds while ye may’ perspective on life. The 47 years she and Daddy had together on this earth were filled with joy and the downs were weathered with grace.
My sense is this was due to Daddy’s having been descended from a rowdy horde of Prussian descent who saw life’s tribulations as challenges to be acknowledged, conquered, and turned into stories for their collective amusement.
Whenever the family gathered, they wound up sharing their collective travails and eventual victory. And defeats were always viewed as temporary. After all, they had all risen from poverty, why shouldn’t they expect their prosperity to continue. They reveled in a good meal and were thankful for whatever was on the table because they remembered when food had been scarce.
Momma was always a little skeptical about Daddy’s Lilies of the Field world view, but he was so optimistic and so generous that mom was won over and she, too, learned to relish the bounty of this world.
Daddy died in 1992 at the young age of 62. Momma joined him in July of 2021. That 29-year separation was agony for her. For the first ten years she tried to fill his absence with “retail therapy.” She went on a world class shopping spree. Eventually, recognizing the futility of that effort she settled down to mourn.
Regularly, she would ask me why God would take my dad, and leave her? For years, I’d reply, “I don’t know Mom.”
Mom’s memory began to decline in 2018 and I began the gradual journey of becoming her primary care giver. It started with my dropping by at lunch time to check that she’d taken her meds. It morphed into my dropping by to make lunch, and then eventually I was there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That was when I was finally able to convince her to come live with us.
We built a mother-in-law suite onto the house. An experience that summoned my Scot’s grandmother and every bit of Robbie Burn’s pessimism. Between Covid and its incipient supply chain disruptions the addition wasn’t ready for her until January of 2021. But thank heavens, because her decline was precipitous once she moved in.
When she would ask her question of why God had left her, I began to answer, “I guess I still need you.”
Taking care of Mom taught me a lesson I don’t think I could have learned any other way. It taught me compassion. How to sit with someone and suffer with them knowing you couldn’t fix it, you just had to endure with them.
I was there rubbing her back and telling her, “It’s OK Honey. You can let go. Buddy’s waiting for you” when 20 days after her 91st birthday she shuffled off her mortal coil and was reunited with the love of her life.
Three days later we interred her ashes along with those of my daddy, which had sat on her dressing room table all those 29 years awaiting their reunion.
Thanksgiving was my daddy’s favorite holiday. As it is mine. And in the true tradition of my father’s belief that there’s always room at the table for one more, we will be joined by a young woman who has just moved to Richmond from San Antonio, TX.
I give thanks that my mom and my dad are together again. And that once again I shall sit down with my family and friends and have the opportunity to share in their joy of overcoming life’s adventures together.
My plans may be destined to fail, but I make them still. For I come from a people who persevere. Tell your stories this holiday of how your people have survived and thrived to be here today. For you will be giving each other the gift of resilience. You will be filling their wells and your own with the strength to overcome whatever comes your way. Because, they will know that they come from hearty stock. People who lived so they could be here.
Enjoy the fruits of their and your labor and know that I am thankful for those of you who read my stories.
I’d Love to Hear from You
I reprieved the story quote because I think it’s brilliant. And encourage people to read The Culture Code.
Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and looking forward to hearing stories of the travails you have overcome.
Til next time,