book review, Poetry, writer

Poetry For Sleepless Nights

I’ve had many a night duking it out with my bed. Insomnia is a problem for many of us, especially creatives. Often, I turn to the ‘tried and true’ Book for calming my mind and seducing me to slumber. The blue light from my iPhone keeps me awake, so I prefer to go back to basics with an old-fashioned book.

Poetry is a great choice for perusing, as our minds are the most creative in the wee hours.

I have several poetry books to choose from, however, this is one of my favorites: Acquainted with The Night, Insomnia poems.

Edited by Lisa Russ Spaar and published by Columbia University Press

This is a fine, did I say fine, collection of some sweet-little-gems by some FANTASTIC Poets. Some of them well-known and some a bit more obscure (well, at least to mwah)

Inspired by this little book, I penned this poem in the throes of my sleepless agony one night, or shall I say one morning!

Insomnia

My heart is racing, tap

tap, tapping on the moon

this night is a bore

the quiet stillness

I abhor

forget the blinds

up in the sky, pull-

pull them down

around, around

silly night, you cannot serenade me

seducing me into your spell

I fell-

I fell into my mind

to forget to sleep in time, not mine.

Forever, ’til the end

only this silliness

to contend

around, around

forever and more

the quiet stillness

I abhor.

©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

 

Here’s a list of some of the Poets who reside under the covers of this sweet little book.

  1. Elizabeth Bishop
  2. Joyce Carol Oates
  3. Dana Gioia
  4. Charles Simic
  5. William Shakespeare
  6. Umberto Saba
  7. King Tran Thai-Tong
  8. Emily Dickinson
  9. Robert Frost
  10. Walt Whitman

 

Jay’s Poetry Pick available on Amazon 

Click image to purchase

 

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poem, Poetry, winter

Cabin Fever

This small hut is closing in on me

anxious energy burning

within

the boring stale air

the household chores

contemplating the dirty bed sheets

that litter my floor

the broken record of weather, news

skipping, frozen in time

snowbound blues, all boxed in

not amused.

 

Over-consumption

stuffing my moods with

winter’s brew and howling winds

pacing this room, milking

the season, dry teats depleted

shriveled with fever

icy bones re-heating the leftovers

of last night’s abhorrent gloom

feeding my anticipation of

winter’s impending doom.

 

©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

 

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family, Memories, Poetry, Transgender artist

My Sister Thinks I’m a Freak

my sister thinks I’m a freak

since childhood

her coldness has wafted about

hung in the air

stench blank and distant stare

steeled  defiance

like the sharp pointed tip of a knife

her judging disapproval

stabs at the walls with a loud

screeching silence

fool-hearted and on the brink of

some kind of manufactured insanity

spewing and churning out

a patented righteousness

a seal that blights my world

with hopes to unfurl

that freakiness she finds so disarming

 

she leaves me wondering…

after all these years, how did we relate?

speechless words

grating gratuities

our bloodlines deflated, flattened

in fact

yearning for some elusive return

of a closeness never had

never shared

never spoken

yet, always wanted.

©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

 

 

 

 

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Career, Reblogs, writer, writing

Freelance Writer vs Blogger

I lean towards blogger but also want to write and learn this craft as much as possible. I am a mix.

MiddleMe

Due to the rising work of LadyRedot.com and MiddleMe.net, I have no choice but to recruit freelance writers for LadyRedot’s travel articles.

As I interviewed some of the freelancers, I noticed that there is a great disparity between a writer and a blogger. Leave professionalism aside, I have encountered both noobs and experienced writers and bloggers. Many whom I realised that they don’t know the differences between these two: freelance writer and blogger. I’m no expert here but I’ve engaged enough clients and freelancers to perhaps throw some light to the differences.

quill-175980_960_720

Content
As a freelance writer, you will probably write in different genres. The popular genres you will touch on are romance, mystery, adventure and mystical. However, there are other genres that widely sought after in the commercial market such as advert writing, IT articles, eCommerce descriptions, SEO write ups, rewording, thesis and biography. 

As a blogger, you…

View original post 551 more words

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Art, Artist, Transgender artist

Spine art

This is an abstract I created called “Spinal”, probably representative of  how my back felt one day! Part of my Yin Yang series.

Oil pastel on watercolor paper.

Guess I was feeling better this day!  Haha.  I gave this one to my Chiropractor. (no seriously, I did)  It is simply called “Spine”

 Related articles

 

©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

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Art, Artist, Transgender artist

Owl in the abstract

I call this “Owl”  can you see him?   I love pushing around the paint, or in this case oil pastel, until an abstract form appears that I am satisfied with.

Here, these little eyes appeared reminding me of an owl. Owls are my all time  favorite bird. They are mysterious and beautiful, and I love to come across one in the daylight. A rare but awesome sighting.

 

©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

 

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Poetry, writer

WORDS

write words

Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

Words

spill onto the page

with fluid abandon

 

Reaching

grappling

touching

delicate impressions

 

Shaping

smoothing over

astute interactions

 

Sculpting images

that emerge

unexplained yet

graceful

 

Suffering

knowing

 

you are almost there

 

Always.

 

©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reblogs, technology, writing

Blogging is Dead, 10K Readers on Wordpress…

I love this. I fully believe that the written word is NOT dead. And my wife and I talk about this all the time, and even if it is DEAD I don’t care,I will never give it up, and besides, it will revive as everything seems to do.

The Art of Blogging

When I told my blogging friends that I wanted to start a new blog to help others with their blogging, they all said I was crazy.

“Isn’t blogging dead?” asked my real-life friends, oblivious to the fact that blogging is still what I do for a living.

And, to be frank, just a few months before launching The Art of Blogging I had spend all my money on buying vlogging gear and transition towards the land of Youtube videos.

I was certain that blogging was dying. The world wanted less mentally strenuous ways of absorbing media, and that would eventually mean the end for blogs.

This was back in January 2018.

Nine months later, there are seven million more WordPress.com hosted blogs. But they all feel it. The ones who are just now starting out. They feel like they’re late to the game. The Internet is such a crowded place…

View original post 315 more words

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Image depicting toxic, scary masculinity
Art, art history, gender, masculinity, Transgender artist

Toxic Masculinity vs. Non-Toxic Masculinity

I don’t want to carry tote bags and wear pink! 

Photo by Moose Photos from PexelsPink Bathrobe.jpg

I’m not touting an anti-pink, anti-feminine, trans male revolt here! However, I’m not fighting to express my toxic masculinity either. I want to claim my non-toxic masculinity without the soft, chewy, gentler male persona, that some men seem to like. I’m kind and unthreatening alright, but I’m tough as rocks, and still sensitive! My intention is to say “Hey, there’s lot’s of gray areas in men too.” I can still be sensitive AND masculine. The toxic masculine social norm, of the last, oh-I-don’t-know, 500 years or so, has annihilated us! Stomping on the subtle nuances and gray areas of our emotions. The new man, those of us who embrace non-toxic masculinity, love our gray areas. You know…I want to eat my entire spectrum of the gray-scale, in one bite. I love the grays, they’re yummy! So many beautiful grays in the world.

Artists haven’t escaped the beating from toxic masculinity either…

For centuries, male artists have ruled the art kingdom. Whether they were “straight” or gay, doesn’t, and didn’t matter much. Point being, toxic masculinity locked women out of the kingdom. Male artists got the recognition, despite having to wait ’til they croaked, and most did, and still do. Except for David Hockney, who this past week, broke a record as the highest paid living artist to date. Selling one of his paintings, for a staggering 90 million dollars!

Abstract Expressionism, an American art movement, born out of New York City (post World War ll), became a breeding ground for toxic male bravado.

Jackson Pollack at Work

Photo credit: Hans Namuth

Jackson Pollack, in my opinion, represented the Abstract Expressionist brand of the hard-drinking, brash, working-class, macho, toxic, overtly masculine, ART SUPERMAN, the best. In fact, he may have invented that brand. His wife, Lee Krasner, a brilliant artist herself, lived in the dark shadows of this classic, toxic male persona her entire life. Sadly, she supported his career, pretty much at the expense of her own.

Becoming Jay, for real…

It pains me to admit it (not really haha)… I love my non-toxic masculinity, but, I love the oh-so-masculine-old-world-alpha-male’s too. As long as they are like me, non-toxic, with lot’s of gray areas. (ie. No bully’s). I am both. That’s my exact point here. Masculinity today is becoming redefined by a new non-toxic-man-movement. Sure, I dreamt of being the Marlboro man (minus cigarette’s) rocky and rugged, a tough outdoors manly man. I still have that dream. The free-wheeling, free-spirited, chock-a-block-of-man, tearing up the wilderness, running with the wolves. Handsome and unbreakable.

I find the masculine binary life liberating in my personal trans-experience. But binary doesn’t need to present as one-dimensional, black and white, with no gray areas. Blah, how drab. Besides, I want to claim my male-artist identity stolen from me growing up dammit! Ha, I said it, whew!…that felt good.

Okay moving on…

Artists are transformative by default. It’s what we do, transform things. Isn’t it contradictory to human nature to pretend we don’t have lot’s and lot’s of gray area’s, non-toxic behaviors or emotions? Little by little that’s changing, but don’t you think, admitting the obvious would transform the art world, the world in general, to advanced levels? Levels where sensitivity is a strength, instead of a weakness.

I guess artists are guilty. Or, are we the lowly bottom feeders of a society, where the callous minions win, over us humans? No control over our own destiny? The hapless victims of a toxic masculinity? Are we doomed to hell for a lifetime?

Or, shall we progress toward enlightenment?

I pick enlightenment.

Transgender artists, like myself, are on a particular spectrum, a spectrum of enlightenment. We kinda have no choice here.  A colorful world, if you will of building a new human identity. An identity where no one life, no one gender, is greater than the other. Instead, experiencing the entire range of our personality. The feminine, the masculine, the whatever we want kinda’ thing. An enlightened life, walking through the fire. The fire of fear.

In today’s world, the violence-the fear-the Xenophobia, suggest’s that “the chickens are coming home to roost.” Toxicity is turning inward and it’s killing us.

I won’t go down with that burning ship. I want to claim my masculine-rugged-alpha-identity, which I longed for growing up.  I don’t want to wear pink though. I don’t want to carry tote bags (not dissing those who do). That isn’t who I am. No prerequisite’s in masculinity, no club to join, at least there shouldn’t be. This funny New York Times piece, pokes fun at non-toxic masculinity a bit. There’s truth in satire, and it’s okay, laughter is healing.

Truth is, non-toxic masculinity is part of what man has suppressed in the collective consciousness of men, since time immemorial. Emotional, but still masculine sensitive men, weren’t allowed to flourish in society, without a brutal beating from its’ dark counterpart, toxic masculinity.

I think in the end, it is obvious, that gender is more like an infinity circle than a binary dichotomy, of this or that.

©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

 

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Old Phone juxtaposed next to Iphone
aging, digital divide, Psychology, technology, Transgender artist

I Want to Talk About the Digital Divide: Old School vs. New School, Ageism, Inequality and Social Injustice.

I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the Digital Divide and Old School vs. New School, and my struggles to stay afloat as I get older.

primate-ape-thinking-mimic

I wonder if Apes ponder these life questions, after-all, we descended from them, right? Apes do look so human, just sayin’. 

So, at this point, we all know the digital divide, but I feel I must weigh in on this, and throw my opinion into the mix. However, for me it isn’t the digital divide alone. No. It’s much larger and been plaguing humans for millennium (not millennials, haha kidding). In my world , my mind, my experience – it is that point I’ve reached in my life –  where I’m either choosing to evolve or decline. Simple yet profound. But reality.

So my experience , as is many people’s experience,  is aging and the digital divide. The digital divide is the discussion of the age-old-social-injusticesinequality, the have’s and have not’s, the socioeconomic divisions, ageism, gender inequality etc. –  that have plagued us humans for eons. In the animal world (like my Ape friend above) it’s ‘survival of the fittest’. My son (a millennial) and I,  feel passionate about changing the digital divide –  this Ted Talk sums it up the best.

Adrian (my son) is a classic tech nerd, he is getting ready to graduate with a degree in computer science. Some day he may work for one of those ‘mega-lithic-tech’ corporation’s. We’ve talked at length on digital responsibility and the collective accountability the developed world has. The responsibility the Tech industry has. We feel passionate toward creating digital equality.

The responsibility to address this digital inequality we face today and bridge the enormous gap we have as a society, is our social responsiblity to the world. And, it is democratically sustainable, and frankly, long overdue. It is a real problem for older folks who have little, none, zilch, zero, nada tech skills (or desire) to learn new skills. Yet, if they live ‘tight to the belt’ with minimal resources and need to work, instead of retire.   Or are older and still of working age, having to adjust to this new-school-tech world, to float above the water, or else sink to the bottom. Their world is spinning fast and they must learn to play this new techie game in life, to make end’s meet. This is wrong. Life should be easier for them. Why make it harder?

I find myself (at fifty-three) cursed by the digital divide, in my opinion too soon. Shameful, because many, many folks are trying to wrangle with this problem, and believe me, it’s a problem. But the other side of this, is the resource question, or shall I call it what it is…the poor people. ‘The divide’ is nothing new to them, they’ve lived this reality for years. Add to this, the current and longstanding, social-economic injustice problem, of the digital divide, and you’ve compounded the injustice. This is detrimental to solving poverty, here and worldwide.

Artist’s (such as myself) experience this phenomena, if they choose to stick with their hand to mouth art practice(s), and live the starving artist’s (dream) which can be a (nightmare) economically. Oddly, this is what I aspired to as a young artist. In Art School (at that time in my life) this was the norm. We snubbed technology, we were trained to live with a paintbrush and palette in our hands, not a computer. I know, some chose to embrace the digital revolution and joined the ranks of digital artist’s, illustrator’s, and photographer’s, but, seriously, a great many didn’t. They built their dreams based on the old school, old world artist lifestyle. And when many artists returned to school to learn desktop publishing and web design, many other artists, who loved the act of working with their hands, doubled down and rejected this new art form. I am one of them. The rugged, starving artist, romantic, but broke.

Today, I feel I have sputtered along over the years, patching together my techie skill set on my own. I have done pretty well, considering I did it alone. Still, it is an exhaustive process for me to keep it up at times. Let’s be real, I grew up different from today. We didn’t have a computer in tow –  everywhere we wentThat isn’t the world I lived in. I am a baby born at the beginning of the Generation Xers. Today, it has become ever-present that I must keep treading water, with computer in tow, or I will sink. Having the computer skills I have taught myself, and continue to learn and peck at, has been invaluable. A new and emerging, dare I say, LOVE of digital design and digital art – which I have poo-pooed for decades now – has gotten me riled up, excited again. I am becoming ‘the sponge’ I was in Art School, wanting to learn every technique available. Of course, it comes down to resources. What is realistic and what is folly. That’s what us artist’s do best though, dream.

I don’t know, maybe it’s the HRT, maybe it’s the getting older thing, but I love making art without getting paint all over me (well, honestly, it’s the clean-up I loathe). Haha, I guess with my transition, I’m changing. I love painting, don’t get me wrong. I’m still a painter at heart, BUT,  I feel I’ve grown and opened myself to all artistic tools now. Whereas in the past I was stoic and rigid, rejecting of the ‘new school’. Evolving from the ‘old school’ isn’t as bad as I feared. Challenging? Yes. But that’s okay, I’m up for the challenge.

As far as the divide, I do feel it is imperative that the digital divide become eradicated from the face of the earth immediately. Humans can do better than this. In order for the world to thrive, we must care for others. Division and greed must die off, and social responsibility, social justice, must prevail. It must prevail – not because it’s trendy, not because we are greedy, creating wealth off a shallow trendy idea of ‘Digital Equality’ –  but because literally – we should want better as loving human beings.

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Reblogs, technology, writing

SEO Basics: To Grow Your Site’s Traffic, Make It More Visible

This is really helpful for new bloggers and anyone trying to understand SEO

Discover

At its core, SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of helping search engines know exactly what your website is about. If you have a WordPress.com Business site, be sure to access the SEO tools in your Traffic settings. They will help you share your site’s information directly with search engines. Ready to get a solid start on your SEO strategy? Dive in with these steps.


What is SEO?

Some of the tools mentioned are available only to WordPress.com Business plan subscribers, but we’ve also included a few tips for everyone.

SEO is the practice of translating content that’s written and formatted for human eyes to something search engines can clearly understand. Doing this helps search engines know exactly how to surface your site in search results — and can lead to your site ranking higher and attracting more visitors. You can achieve this with metadata: the extra descriptions…

View original post 758 more words

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Cartoon drawing of fear and panic
abundance, art as therapy, Artist, clarity, Psychology, writer

Fear and Panic are the Enemy!

Don’t Panic, Instead, Live a Life of Truth, Clarity and Calm – and Abundance Will Prevail.

I believe in the cliche’, if you build it they will come — gasping? I know…wretched, but true. I believe in this overused term, of course, until my own panic sets in and fear leeches into my psyche!

I battle this most everyday. Artists and writers everywhere face this demon.

I recall one of my favorite cartoon characters, The Great Gazoo from The Flintstones. Gazoo represents this emotional, spiritual, crises of the conscience. A little space alien, appears above Fred’s shoulder. He’s lecturing him on — what’s right and wrong/good and evil — evoking fear and panic in Fred’s mind, playing upon his guilty conscience.

Abundance comes in many forms. One thing is certain, if you panic, abundance becomes restricted, delayed, suppressed. If you start the day with clarity of purpose and faith in your ability to remain calm, things begin to manifest. Abundance presents — not as money (however, it can and many times does) but as flow.

What is Flow?

It is the excitement and expectation that what you create today is good, purposeful, beautiful, delicious, charming, in fact —  it’s great!

Haven’t you had this experience?

When you paint, write, sing, cook and everything you create is amazing!

That’s flow –that’s abundance — that’s money!

Photo by David McBee from Pexels

100-abundance-achievement-730564.jpg

Abundance shows up as a peaceful knowing that your spirit is free. Creativity is purpose and innovation. You will have gratitude for your clarity, joy in your creation — that’s the ultimate reward!

When the juices are flowing you feel the most alive. I do.

Panic, worry, doubt and fear — these feelings present as a spiritual crises of your soul. Your flow stops, sputters, chokes, and your creativity/abundance — stifled.

These feelings happen to me on a regular basis. Anxiety sets in — am I wrong? Should I, would I, could I? — blah, blah, blah. This is the look on Fred Flintstones face, the anxiety and panic. He thinks, am I making good decisions? Struggling to regain his sense of clarity, his sense of spiritual truth.

Truth is… making art/writing/being creative, sets my personal point of reference back ‘True North’. I wrestle with my anxiety by creating my art. If I surrender to the flow, the spirit, the force, the magic — however you want to label it — abundance prevails. Making art/writing/being creative, has been the ‘set point’ in my life. Without this clarity, this purpose, I would fail miserably in life.

I struggle with this strange notion that if I’m not working a job, bringing in lots of money, then, what I do isn’t legitimate. After all, society perpetuates and rewards this ideology. This truth has been hard to digest at times. However, by seeking calm and clarity (and most important) by keep building and tending to the garden of my creativity — I know the fruits of my flow is the reward. 

Like Fred, The Great Gazoo is with me. As good spiritual leaders do (okay, okay he’s a cartoon character) but I like him, whatever it takes… Gazoo is with me, helping me to find clarity, calm and truth. I won’t surrender to panic and fear, rather, I will use it to forge a path to greatness, a path to abundance.

Photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexelscolorful-colourful-outdoors-830829.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Career, Reblogs

Finding Ways to Progress your Writing Career — Nicholas C. Rossis

I recently came across an excellent resource for freelance writers by Laura Yates of blogging.com. Laura is a writer, coach, and podcaster who has been blogging and writing in the niches of fashion, beauty, relationships, and personal development since 2009. You Won’t Get Anywhere by Standing Still – Finding Ways to Progress your Writing Career As Tom […]

via Finding Ways to Progress your Writing Career — Nicholas C. Rossis

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family, Memories, Poetry, Transgender artist

Poetry about my beloved grandmother, Tateh.

Poetry reblog from 2012 about my grandmother

The Artist From The Inside Out

Tateh and CeDe ( my grandfather) circa 1937

Our Storyteller

Upon the landscape of your face

tumbling from the folds of your laughing brow

and between the creases of your weathered jowl

I see the history of Palestine.

I see children playing under olive trees, and goats

grazing on grass. Your eyes sparkle and sing, as though

you were still a child running through the dusty

rock strewn roads of Ramallah.

You are laughing with your little sister, escaping

from the neighborhood boys you were teasing; taunting.

Perhaps one of them a young Hanna Shihadeh, our grandfather;

at least these are the stories you told us.

I delighted, relished every word you spoke

of your life. I saw magic in your eyes

when you enchanted our hearts

with your stories of Palestine.

You – solid, sturdy and present.

You – soft, strong and pliant.

You –…

View original post 263 more words

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Artist, Career, Psychology

The Pivotal Moment I Followed My Passion And Became An Artist

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexelsadult-alone-black-and-white-551588.jpg

That pivotal moment came – after personal tragedy

I was Twenty years old – lost, depressed, and confused after my cousin Billy committed suicide. We were close growing up as children. Billy’s suicide was the dark storm that wrecked me. As a child of the 1970’s and 80’s, drug use was commonplace with teenagers. Billy became an addict and succumbed to the effects of this lifestyle at a young age. He shot himself in the temple. A common (and preferred method) for men. Billy was twenty-one years of age. And, as I said, I was twenty. I was no angel either, however, I wasn’t an addict. Instead I was in danger of becoming an alcoholic. At the time of Billy’s suicide, I was in the process of getting my act together. Daunting at best, as I had little (to no) resources or support. I proclaimed to myself – I would avoid going down that same path ever, ever, EVER.

Kicked-outta’ the house and living on my own (after graduating high school) life was difficult for me.

Photo by Min An from Pexelsadult-alone-concrete-720362

I found a single room (in a Boarding House). The Glenside Inn, located in the town I grew up, was a restaurant and bar with single rooms upstairs and a shared bath. The Inn became my home for a bit. I found full-time work in a print shop – an old vintage print shop. The shop, in operation since the 1940’s, was still (at that time) using those old typeset letters and burning metal plates for the printers. 

Photo by Wendelin Jacober from Pexelsbusiness-close-up-equipment-1440504.jpg

Available today as collectibles on ebay https://www.ebay.com/itm/250-Vintage-Lead-Typeset-Letterpress-Block-Letters-In-Drawer-1-4-3-8-/113272846465 .

Ha! No secrets here, I’m an OLD man! Okay – I might be overdoing things a bit… however, millennials such as my son might agree with this.

But – I digress.

My job at the print shop was to shoot the mock-up’s, develop the film and burn the metal plates that attached to the large Heidelberg printing presses. Of course, back then, the graphic artist did all the mock-up’s by hand – cut and paste (pre-digital) – an acquired skill and tedious to boot.

What got me jazzed was the grit and grind of the shop

The cool-looking, large plate burners – the graphic artist, angry and stressed – cutting/pasting/smoking – the piles and piles of cut up papers and magazines, stacked messy and high on the drafting board. Yellow dingy windows – the dark and dirty factory atmosphere – the frenzied pace of deadlines – the photography – the typesetting – the wooden print shop relics – and the humongous LOUD printing machines. All this chaos, captured my fascination. I became transported back in time.

After working all day, alone and depressed in my room, I started to draw again. With weekly trips to the library I found art books to study, copying Picasso’s and Van Gogh’s – determined to learn more. I developed a love for abstract art, and began experimenting. I drew my little sister’s elementary school pictures, dogs, abstracts and strange, distorted self-portraits.

No matter what – I wanted to BECOME an artist

This was a bold awakening for somebody that had NO real direction in life. My parents education level – both of them high school dropouts – struggled to raise us kids. Unspoken yet expected – the norm had been – you would somehow GET A JOB when you graduate.

J-O-B’s – weren’t enough

So…I enrolled in night school at Penn State University’s satellite campus. I had no idea what I was doing. I muddled through the process. I spent time planning and studying financial aid (still mystified) I pressed on. Attending part-time at night, while working full-time to pay rent. Art classes during the day and Liberal Art classes at night, I succeeded in bringing my grades up. The daytime art classes were my favorite. My art teacher mentored me, showing me how to get a portfolio together. This was invaluable.

Ultimately –  I transferred full-time to an amazing art school

The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, I couldn’t believe I was there. The whole experience was super exciting and new. Considering, at first, I snubbed the idea, I wasn’t sure I wanted to earn a degree. I believed I would find an artist community and be self-taught. However, that idea folded quick. And without this experience, I might have ended up with my own personal tragedy. Following my passion saved me. Four years later, I graduated, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a certificate in Art Therapy. Eager to conquer the art world and live my ARTIST life, I succeeded.

The after artist’s life (so to speak) is a whole other story…

© [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com], [2018]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, artwork, or photo’s without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Memories, Poetry, writer

Here I Stand On Torrid Land

 

Torrid land

Photo by FAICAL Zaramod from Pexel

here i stand on torrid land

my spirit wandering the dusty sand

of fig trees, khubz (bread) and floured hands

i stand just

foot driven deep

in the earth’s crust

sure-footed grip of rocks and mortar

my soul ripped in two

by grief’s torture

small hands grasped lightly

by the remembrance of her

soft dough-baked grip of salt, of land

ancient yet present her cherub eyes danced

table-side love she spoon-fed her clan

with grape leaves and olives

and (not so dainty) meat pastries

prepared from the vines toiled by cede’s hand

his backyard bounty, his dreams — their dreams

of their homeland and my dreams of

hot cement days and barefooted children

pretending the dawali (stuffed grape leaves) are stacks of cigars

stuffed, rolled, stacked high on big plates

the dawali grows high

creating bigger heaps of make-believe

fun time with cousins

longing for the smells of dusty left behind relics

that bespeak of them, their belongings

the hookah, the 8 track tapes belting out loud arabic music

the robe and headscarf my grandfather wore

in ramallah, the curious one that later became a halloween costume

worn by a childhood friend

and that old oriental rug beaten by history

splayed across the living-room floor, adding an air of the exotic

to their mundane – colonial – suburban sofa

the lamb and garlic stained air smelt early at daybreak

seemed always there lingering about

oiled hot pots full brimming with tomato broth baths

and grown ups lamenting the evening news, the war, the fight

for the return of their land, usurped by foreign man

those that had suffered atrocities of their own

have turned ugly heaping nails, spitting bulldozers

claiming god has promised this to them

easily they slipped between tongues

english and arabic at once

they were here/there simultaneously

they had created a new language, one easily understood by us

and me, absorbing all this with my round brown eyes

unaware of my future task

silently inhaling the smoke of my

family’s lingering rage, the kind of rage

that clings to the walls, to the curtains, to the furniture, to me

to my stuffed pink panther

the one i loved so much for its unique shape and color

the color of bubble gum and pink lemonade — but the rage!  

the rage had to be scrubbed off the walls, scrubbed off the furniture

scrubbed off my clothes, scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed!

and i –  inherited this task unknowingly.

© [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com], [2012]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, artwork, or photo’s without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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Artist, clarity, Psychology, writer

AHHHHHHH — Frustration is Frustrating!

 

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Photo by Genaro Servín from Pexels

Frustration is an unsettling feeling, undoubtedly.

For years I’ve dappled in poetry and blogging. I’ve been skirting the edges of this craft (this art form) since my early days in Art School. Today I feel a calling, a force within, a palpable frustration in my need to write. Why?

Perhaps it is the voice in my head shouting at me to speak! Periodically afraid to voice my opinion in written format has been directly linked to my fear of commitment. AHA!

I literally was just informed of this by that voice in my head again. LOL! I perplex myself at the same time as finding myself quite brilliant. Seriously, I fear committing to an opinion or “story” as I might have to act on something. Well, at least that is the silliness I tell myself. I want to remain open I think, as an artist I should be open. This is the battle, the battle for clarity and fair-mindedness that stalks my psyche. Strange? I know. Stranger things there are though, ’cause people are their own worst critics.

And storytelling (by the way) is an ancient art form that has been handed down through our bloodlines, our bones. It’s a natural human condition (in my belief) that relay’s messages from within. To seek and tell one’s story, or to be sought out by our inner voice to tell one’s story. Poetry grabbed a hold of me the same way. I heard voices in my head (over and over) that wouldn’t shut up. I felt compelled to grab a notebook and pencil. Lo’ and behold —  poetry spilled out. I felt possessed. Mesmerized, I didn’t stop for several years. Same as my urge to pick up a brush and paint suddenly — telling a story visually, expressing an emotion, depicting a scene. No different.

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Photo by Genaro Servín from Pexels

Back to Frustration. Frustration about pivoting my art form. Where do I start? I know other artist’s and writer’s have the same problem. Painter’s stare at blank canvasses, as writer’s stare at blank pages. So it goes. To pivot or not to pivot? That is my question.

I want to master my pivoting. If I can master the pivot, I can effortlessly succeed. Right?

Frustration will cease to exist if I just pivot from it — Ha! (In fantasy world) Frustration is key to understanding my story — understanding the road to take, the story to tell. Pivoting is part of creating. Sometimes tackling the beast of frustration to the ground is how I proceed with creation. Frustration/Creation. Sounds good to me. I’ve learned to listen to the voices in my head. So, I forge forward. I write. I paint. I pontificate. And I frustrate. But I create, and that is what I live for. Now…what should I write?

©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

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gender, Memories, Psychology, Transgender artist

I Cracked the Outer Shell and Touched the Inside of my Soul

selfieA vision struck me one day, that little bubble that appears in newspaper comics popped inside my head: “The Artist From The Inside Out”. In that moment, clarity washed over me. I said – “What a great premise for my blog”. Lay everything out, bare naked and in the open. Being an artist who is going through transition is simultaneously exciting and exposing; sometimes leaving me in a raw emotional state. After all, I didn’t plan on being transgender, nevertheless this is who I am. I spent my life hiding inside a shell. In mere seconds, I cracked that outer shell and touched the inside of my soul for the first time. A shell created to protect me from our society’s hate, ignorance and judgement. This coping mechanism – I honed –  from the outside in.

Realizing that I had defaulted to my shortcomings and created a suitable safe existence, became shocking to me. This idea of “The Artist From The Inside Out” reversed that dialogue with myself. Critical that I live unrestricted, free from hate and judgement, my quest is to get re-acquainted with the boy I abandoned years ago. Reclaiming ones’ self-identity is vital to transition. Being transgender, and an artist, means visiting the places I forgot, the uncharted experiences of my life that I desperately desired.

When I was a child, I assumed I was a boy, however, society rejected this and rendered me female – that was devastating. Life became hard when that reality sank in. As people challenged my identity, seething anger replaced innocence. The outer shell of self-protection began to form, but with consequences. My life became sad, depressing and scary. Confusion twisted my little soul in two, and I split my world to somehow fit this “new reality”. To become whole as a man, and as an artist, is my end goal. That’s happening with ease now, but with moments of grief. Normal human behavior is to look back and mourn the years we lost. However, grief purges the soul and opens your heart.

“The Artist From The Inside Out” was the light switch moment; the flipping of my life story. As an artist, authenticity is my mantra – what I strive to live by. Living by this code is what I need to feel connected. That authenticity is unraveling for me everyday as I learn something profound (or not) in becoming connected again to my true self. Funny, but the experiences I find profound are the simple memories of a carefree boyhood and joys of unfettered play. The simple love of my Matchbox and Hot Wheels , my purple Nerf football and my reckless tree climbing were true bliss.

However, as a small child I had awareness that I was different. My mother shared the other day a memory of me, at five years old, punching the little boy next door for calling me a girl! I consider myself a Robin Hood type, but a bully – no! My nature is to come to the rescue of the victim, the underdog. I suppose I was the victim of that little boy – and the five-year old me – didn’t accept this! Mom verified to myself (and to herself) that even at five years old, I understood I was a boy.

I strive to express love, passion and the human spirit as an artist. I want to express this crazy need I have to say something in my life. Art is a reminder of the inner light us humans hold. The brighter the light the bigger the impact. Self-expression is one of the biggest needs humans have, but at times forgotten. What higher form of democratic-expression is there but the human right to self-expression, self-determination. Therefore, my self-discovery of being transgender and going through this transition has been the ultimate in self-expression.

A critical and larger part of a healthy democracy is all equal parts are thriving. Artists are here to remind us of the commonality we all experience, because art by nature allows for human connection. As an introvert – as an artist – albeit late in life; my shell cracked open and the man within – exposed from the inside out.

© [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com], [2018]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, artwork, or photo’s without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Art, Artist

The Chameleon Effect and My Shifting Color Palettes.

 

Living in Florida has greatly affected my work as an artist. Years ago my artwork coming from Philadelphia, PA., a blue-collar and gritty Northeast city,  was much darker with a heavy vibe to it. My palette was full and rich with Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Blues, Yellow Ochre, Pthalo Green, all very rich robust oil paints heavily influenced by my city life. Shortly after moving to Florida I noticed “The Chameleon Effect”  influencing my color palette. The chameleon is the artist of the forest. Scientists believe chameleons change color to express their mood as stated in this article from wonderpolis.org. My work began to morph into a vibrant and  lighter color palette as I adjusted to my new coastal life here in Florida. It seemed very sudden that my work began to change color. I guess my mood began to shift quicker than I thought, matching to the new environment I was living in. It was an emotional response to the nature, the unique landscape and the big blue endless sky of Florida. I felt transported to an exotic Island. For me it was an almost surreal experience as I lived my entire life near a big gritty city. At first, I rejected it thinking it was not my style. Above you can see my two paintings juxtaposed to illustrate this. “Cocoon #2” on the left, is an early painting I did in my last year of art school and the oil pastel “Radiance” on the right is my current work.  Nature themes are present in both of these pieces. However, “Cocoon #2” was a very internal response to my yearning for nature and for solitude. Surrounded daily by concrete buildings, crowded streets and dark colors  the city was claustrophobic at times.  Whereas, “Radiance” was an outward response to the nature and bright sunny colors of the Florida landscape. My palettes have shifted, as I have shifted since first arriving here in Florida many years ago. Uniquely expressing my moods through changing colors, I as well have adopted the innate traits of the chameleon.

© [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com], [2018]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, artwork, or photo’s without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Art, Artist, gender, Transgender artist

Gender Identity and the Dreaded Self Portait; At Least I Didn’t Cut My Ear Off

 

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Vincent Van Gogh “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear” (Photo Credit: Public Domain)

Vincent Van Gogh cut his ear off. They claim he had mental Illness. Maybe he did – maybe he didn’t, I don’t know. Artists have demons. His demons caused him such distress that he physically harmed himself. He was emotional, passionate and intense; yet out of his element in that century. Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters. I related to him as an artist. Perhaps he struggled with his identity? He may have even hated his self-portraits. I dreaded mine. Self-portraits exposed me. I didn’t like being exposed. Deep down I knew something wasn’t right inside me. I never felt comfortable with my image. But at least I didn’t cut my ear off.

This past July I was recruited to do an “Ask Me Anything!” (AMA) event after being “found” on an illustrators group. I’d never heard of it before but after researching it, I was intrigued. I immediately signed up and soon after was hosting my first event.  The experience really touched me personally. It was this event that spawned the idea of  revamping my old blog. If you haven’t heard of AMA events, I urge you to check them out amafeed.com . I want to expound a bit on my answers to some very insightful questions I got from people during my event. One of the questions I was asked was, did I think hating my self-portraits had anything to do with my gender identity crises? To that I said, “I absolutely do!”  In fact as good as others thought my art was, I often felt it was not good enough or worse yet, they are lying (just to make me feel better) weird right? The imposter syndrome was always with me. Sure I liked my art. Sometimes I even loved my art. BUT it definitely brought out my self-hatred too, especially when I had to look in the mirror and do a self-portrait. I guess it was not the usual self-loathing that most people experience. It was a fear to portray myself as female. I thought to myself, is it okay that I looked and felt kinda like a guy anyhow? Gender identity was my Achilles heel . I was always trying to walk an imaginary line of androgyny. After all, androgyny was cool I thought, I’m an artist right? Also, I was struggling with never feeling quite right with being a “lesbian”. In fact, I never really self-identified that way, preferring instead to say that I was gay. This way I could avoid the female connotation, it was an easy and more accepted identity for me. I am very comfortable and relieved now that I’m not a lesbian. I never was. I am a male who is binary and straight. I was born transgender not cis-gender. This has been a huge relief because I harbored feelings that I might be homophobic or hated lesbians and felt extremely guilty about that. I haven’t picked up and explored self-portraits since transitioning. I suspect when I do it will be a better experience. I like how I look and feel now. I am not saying I won’t struggle at all, that would be absurd. However, I don’t have to agonize over my female features anymore. I can look in the mirror with confidence and ease. I finally like they way I look. Self-portaits aside, having transitioned to male and feeling my gender dysphoria slowly dissolve has been a sheer joy. This artistic journey, this human journey leaves me to wonder, what if Van Gogh lived today? Would it be different for him. Maybe he wouldn’t have cut off his ear?

© [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com], [2018]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, artwork, or photo’s without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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