Saturday, October 15, 2011

Calendar Memoir - Movies, food, dance theater and the IRS!

Okay, it's time to do what I've promised for the last few weeks. Calendar Memoirs is way to share with you the things I've enjoyed - so you can enjoy them also in the future!

Wednesday October 5th, 2011: As a professional art installer, I hang Michel Sarda's photography exhibit. He was Herberger Gallery's curator last year, and this is his retrospective show, Spirit of Arizona. The show goes through October 30th.

Friday October 7th, 2011: I attend Michel Sarda's art opening and book signing event at Herberger with Junjie Verzosa, we go over to Artlink's A.E. England Gallery across from ASU's Downtown Campus in Phoenix's Heritage Square to see Stories of Us: Celebrating the 2 Year Anniversary of the Artlink Galleries. Take the light rail or try to park in front, after making three dangerous left turns around the block and across the rails. Address: 424 N. Central at Taylor.

It's a pretty building right on Central - glasss all around to see the art from the outside as well. Public bathrooms due to the park (Civic Space). I like that part! Live music was playing and I took pretty pictures of the infamous public art flying thing (saguaro bloom / UFO / basketball hoop cyclone.) Her Secret is Patience is the work of Janet Echelman, Central Station, Phoenix.

Junjie's piece is my favorte in the Stories of Us show (curated by cory Weeks). I like it not just because Junjie is a friend, but he takes two classic pieces and makes them his own - a child's portrait (from the eyes up) looking at Bouguereau's Madonna of the Lilies and another Madonna with Child.

See his two Madonna pieces in the center of Junjie Verzosa's website:

William-Adolphe Bouguereau became my favorite artist after learning of him while doing the interior layout and cover design for Mantoshe Singh Devji's book The Virgin in Art.

Also on October 7th, I e-file my taxes and find that someone else has filed before me using my social security number. I spend the weekend figuring out how to deal with this...

Sunday, October 9th: I watch a movie on TV (yes, a rare movie on non-cable): The Miracle at St. Anna - a 40 Acres and a Mule production. A great movie with signature Spike Lee cinematography and editing. Since Buffalo Soldiers (all black batallions) have been written out of WWII history by not incuding them in WWII movies, this story re-writes history (honestly) by putting them back in the war. Yet it is fiction - and ironically this fiction has maddened Italians, because they feel their history has now been rewritten.

I recall seeing a pre-screening of Spike Lee's first film "She's Gotta Have It" when I was at Indiana University. I remember how clear it was from Lee's first movie that he would change film history. I can recall specific scenes, burned intmy memory. It was the first time I saw film as visual art and not just story. How cool it would to meet him - but what could one say that was not cliche or that he had heard a million times before.

Monday, October 10th, 2011: I try to call the FTC (along with about 10 other government agencies) and get amd that they're offices are closed at 3:55 pm. "Nice hours," I think. I later realize my calendar with the teeny-tiny print has made me miss another holiday - this time Columbus Day. But my chiropractor's office is thankfully open - the amazing Dr. Edward Judge. After 3 days of migraines (both euphamistically and literally) the releif is welcomed.

Tuesday, October 11th: I don't bring a single thing to my Water from Rock Bible Study's potluck dinner - and only feel slightly guilty for eating everyone else's wonderful food. I had just read Rev. Tim Smith's eVotional about the healing powers of fire on the pine forest. Intense heat is needed to reseed and grow the forest. I need to believe this - desperately - because this IRS / Identity Theft issue is really starting to get to me.

Thursday, October 13th, 2011: I see the movie Ides of March with my friend Cinda, a scriptwriter, then go to eat at Macaroni Grill and uber-analyze a movie that neither one of us found satisfying. Yet it did bring up many themes to dsicuss.

I then ask about her own screen play. I ask how her trip to NY went and if she was able to meet the producer she had hoped to. "No, Spike Lee didn't make it to the party, but my friend will get it to him."

This kind of thing happens to me all the time - weird conincidences. Almost prophetic thoughts. I wish I could use it for profit somehow...but it will probably have to just remain entertaining.

Friday, October 14th, 2011: Linda Ingraham and I rush to Sophie's French Bistro to make it in time for Happy Hour - it ends at 6 pm. Crepes, quiche and pomme frittes (french fries - in French). I give in and try the Peachtini.

We then head to Herberger Theater to see Center Dance Ensemble - There is a Time to Dance. The first half includes performance by various dance troupes. A solo called "Trapped" choreographed and danced by Martha Hernandez is fantastic - performed flawlessy and humorously. It is based on Corintians 12: 20-22 "...there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you'..." But the dancer endeavors enthusiastically!

Sadly 1/3 of the audience leaves at intermission as their young freinds have already danced and will not perform in the second half. The second half is the main attraction. "The Attic" is a profound, deep, sad and moving dance interpretation of The Diary of Ann Frank. It makes me want to read it - knowing that like when the dancers drop to the floor, and the diary just ends without another entry - many have died and we must remember how it happened. Then I look around the theater to recall - all the youth have left.

You have until Sunday to see it!

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer."We..." an e-book at: her art at: Artist Websitesand

Friday, October 14, 2011

Confirming the Question

A friend writes in response to my adjusted Blog Introduction. Thank you Nancy!

I think part of living is to always be asking questions – even of God. That’s a sure sign our minds are still working and in my age group that isn’t always true! You lead a most interesting life and you’re blessed with a beautiful talent. Enjoy! I find that answers always evolve eventually but they aren’t always what I expected and that makes life interesting.
Nancy S.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Amazing Friends Ask "How Can We Help?" An example to follow...

A close family member recently became very ill and my mother asked me to contact some friends. When I stopped by and shared the news, first they listened, then asked "How can we help?"

I didn't know how to answer that question in the moment, but the offer created peace. If we needed something, I knew where to comfortably go for assistance.

But the offer didn't stop there, they began to offer ways to help. This is a fantastic way to be of help - because someone is under stress or shock it's hard to think of what you need.

Here are some things they came up with: Pray and contact the pastor, e-mail friends (they took notes on the situation to make sure they got the information right), keep an eye on the house, take people to or pick up people at the airport.

In addition to asking how to help the people affected, they also wanted to know what they could do to help me personally.

What a fantastic example of how to be a true friend to someone in need.

My favorite way to help me in the moment: "Can we send you home with some 'Prozac"?" Code for double fudge brownies!

Thank you! For the brownies, for the offer to help, for thinking up ways to help even when I could not, and for a wonderful example to follow.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Changing Banks is a Process - Take it Slow

In my October 7th Blog "When it Comes to Money - Lets Strive for a "C" in the School of Life!" I expressed changing banks is always an option - but do your research. So I've done mine as well, and want to share what it takes to do it right. To be blunt - it takes a few months.

In this electronic instant money world, most of us have automatic deposits and automatic withdrawals. That means finding the right balance for awhile - having money in two different banks while you handle the details can be tricky.

And hopefully you make entries in your checkbook - so you know what amounts have not cleared yet. I know too many people who check their balances every day on-line, and think that's what they can spend. Then they are shocked when they are overdrawn the next day and are hit with huge fees. Outstanding checks need to be accounted for, plus a cushion, when you withdraw money and put it into your new bank.

Changing automatic payments to a new account may require you to write a check for the in-between month. You'll want to write it from your NEW account - so make sure you have enough money in that account to cover your payments. Ah yes, all you who hated math and said you would never have to use it in real life - sorry, you do!

Here's a fantastic step-by-step resource on making the change to a new bank - after you do the research and decide whether or not it is actually worth it.

In fact, Consumer Union's Defend Your Dollar seems to be a great resource on many financial issues.

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer."We..." an e-book at: her art at: Artist Websitesand

Friday, October 7, 2011

Home Ownership Rates

Did you know that home ownership at its PEAK in the US was 70%? Guess what it is the bottom of this terrible market and underwater mortgages. In spite of what you hear, many people are staying in their homes and paying their mortgages, and are happy to have a home. Others have opted to rent a house or an apartment or move in with other family members. Have you guessed yet? Home ownership is now at 65.

An interesting article:
Latino Homeownership Up 2% Despite Record Low Housing Numbers

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer."We..." an e-book at: her art at: Artist Websitesand

Thursday, October 6, 2011

When it Comes to Money - Lets Strive for a "C" in the School of Life!

We all remember the Bell Curve from our school days, right? A few people get A's, more get B's, the majority get C's (highest part of the curve), it goes lower again with D's and finally (hopefully) the lowest number of people receive F's.

I think we should look at the number of home loans graphed against interest rates pretty much the same way - actual loans as well as availability of loans. Really high interest rates and we have a low number of loans becuase consumers don't want to be tied in to 30 years of unmanageable interest payments. Really low interest rates creates a low number of loans on the other end of the bell curve. Why? Because banks don't want to be tied in to receiving low interest income for 30 years. "In the middle rates" is where the lenders and borrowers come to agreement, hence the most loans being available AND agreed to.

SO...if loans are not being offered by the banks now because interest rates are so low, why on earth do we think that if the Fed lowers rates even more, banks will finally start lending again? As of October 6th, the news says with the new .1% drop you can now get a 3.9% 30 year mortgage. Don't bother to run to your bank and actually try and get that loan though.

I know, I know - those big, bad banks trying to make a buck... but we forget that banks are businesses. They have overhead (rent, electricity) and employees to pay. So if they know that a large portion of their money being tied up for 30 years making only 4% interest will not allow thm to pay their bills, pay thier employees and stay in business...they hold out on mortgages and they find other ways to make money and stay in business. (And keep people employed.)

Forgive me for the elementary econimics lesson, I'm almost done - but htis is important. It's wher eyou come in!

Banks as just like the grocery store, like an architect or a landscaper or an artist. They offer a product or a service that we choose either to buy or not to buy. The business sets a price they can survive and make a profit with, the consumer decides if they think the product or service is worth that price. You either buy or you don't buy. If enough people don't buy, then the business doesn't make money at that price. They will either have to lower their prices, change thier products offering or business plan, or eventuallygo out of business.

When one big bank started charging new fees for using a debit card there was alot of uproar. But did people act on that anger, or just complain. We are such a fatalistic country for a country that is so set on success. "One bank does it and all the rest will follow. There's nothing we can do. So I guess I'll stay with the bank and pay through the nose."

If the price isn't worth the service (of having an account, having a debit card, or using a credit card) then people need to let the banks know. How? Don't use the debit card or credit card (such torture I know). Or go in and talk to the bank's customer service staff. Many banks will waive monthly fees if you have three services with them. Or you can change banks. Yes, you have that choice.

You could also decide that the service you recieve is worth the price. A valid choice for many, but not all. (Before changing banks, see my blog called "Changing Banks is a Process - Take it Slow")

Here's some good news - capitalism is alive and well (and not a dirty word, by the way.) Within three days of the news of the fee for debit card use I saw a community bank advertising how they don't pick your pockets. They are poised and ready to pick up the slack when people start leaving the big banks, searching for banks with better terms.

Don't beleive it when the media tells you banking is an oligarchy - that a few banks make all the decisions. You have choices. Those choices may not have an ATM on every corner or a commercial on every tv station, but you do have choices. Community banks, credit unions, your mattress. Debit cards, credit cards, paying cash. Staying in your current house (even if you are under water - a roof over your head is a good thing), renting, buying a foreclosure (and putting some work into it).

Don't get me wrong I know there is a problem. I also know people who have tried to refinance have felt they either wasted a whole lot of time for very little decrease in payments - or they didn't qualify. But if it's worth it to you, you will do the research to find out what its best for you.

Be a good consumer. "Vote" with your money, so to speak. Whether you are buying a hamburger or a checking account - let the businesses know what it is worth it to you and at what price. Also, be a good citizen. After you've complained to your freinds write your congressman or congresswoman!

Below is a response from a public servant I like. Now let's just hope people and banks can come to agreement on a good old-fashioned bell curve. Strive for a "C" grade people. Agreement! and something we can all live with.

David Schweikert - District 5 Representativeof Arizona
Helping Homeowners Event - Click here for information and Invitation

For more about Schweikert click here. There's a survey that it appears you need to take before gtting to his site. But you can actually skip it by clicking to the side of it. But if your own Representatives want to know what you feel, it's a very good sign. Tell them!

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer."We..." an e-book at: her art at: Artist Websitesand

Monday, October 3, 2011

Just Enjoy the Show

Sunday October 2nd, 2011 – Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona

Somewhat paraphrased: Peace is not just the absence or lack of something – no war, no more problems. If peace depends on the absence of trouble, peace is only temporary. We live in a broken world, and new problems will start the very next morning. Instead, peace – Shalom – is both a prayer and the presence of something: freedom and confidence. Freedom from fear and confidence that God is in control. If you choose to believe that everything that happens, every detail of your life, is in God’s plan, has a purpose and can work ultimately for good, then there is peace – in spite of your problems, and even in the midst of war.
- Grace Community Church – Dr. Daryl Delhousaye,
Text: John 14: 25 – 31

It’s not unlike the movie I saw later with friends, Money Ball. We can choose to never be satisfied, never win enough games unless you win the “final game” – the pennant. In that case only one team wins in a single game in an entire season of baseball. Not much fun – we could skip all the hot dogs and apple pie, summer picnics and ice cream after the games. In fact the last inning is all that would be worth watching – worth living. Fast forward through your entire life, dissatisfied every step of the way, and then be “shocked” when you can’t remember how to celebrate; or there is no one around to celebrate with. (It’s a metaphor.)

Or you can, as the final song the main character's daughter sings suggests, “I’ve got to let it go and just enjoy the show. You’re such a loser dad. You’re such a loser dad. Just enjoy the show.*” Yes, yes, another metaphor. Another way to say the more common metaphor, “It’s not whether you win or lose – it’s how you play the game.

Personally, I’d like to both win AND play well along the way, maybe we all would. And we’ve got to admit, playing well increases the likelihood of that happening – though of course it’s not a guarantee. Still, there are principals in sports that apply to life, like “Practice makes perfect.” So why do so many of us try to get by on sloppy or lazy work and act surprised when things turn out poorly?

The main character played by Brad Pitt was often stressed out , angry or frustrated. Yet only once did he drink alcohol as a coping mechanism. I liked that. (Eating though – well, that’s another story.)

I’m not a Brad Pitt fan. (I’m maybe one of five women in the world who don’t find him attractive.) Nor do I feel he is a particularly good actor. I like baseball even less. Still, once the story started to make sense, I really liked the movie and felt Pitt portrayed the wide emotional range of the character quite well. Women who aren’t sports fans – don’t worry that it’s about baseball. All viewers – don’t stress over or even try to make sense of the beginning. It will all come together soon enough.

There are two fantastic, high energy scenes that make the whole movie worthwhile. Both include interplay between the characters Billy Beane (General Manager / GM) and Peter Brand (economics intern and assistant to GM). First entails a long group, (non)discussion in which Billy comes in to the recruiters table and announces who they will pick for the team. It’s long, hilarious and the interplay is perfectly timed. Same goes for the second, in which they do some wheeling and dealing over on the phone with other teams. It seems to all come together, until they realize their one mistake. The resulting scene also is well done, yet melancholic.

Now let me skip back to before the show. While buying tickets, a man purchasing tickets next to me asked if Money Ball was full. When he was told no, I told him I was still going to race him for the best seats. I guess he knew I wasn’t quite as quick as he when he told me, “When you get in there after us, just don’t sit behind us."

At the candy counter, another man excitedly asked me, “Do you know who you were talking to?” (Of course the answer is no – I just talk to whoever, sticking my nose in other people’s business when I feel like it.) He told me ended up being the 1976’s basketball Rookie of the Year. (Sorry, still don’t know who he is…) But because he was "too short” (6’ 9”) for the center position he was not expected to go early in the draft. His college coach, who had recently become a Phoenix Suns coach, decided differently. “Too short” for the position, he did so well because of skill and speed.

This story fits the theme of Money Ball as well – drafting on talent (or statistics) and not 100 other superficial or emotional reasons that we base our decisions on every day, in real life. The funniest example in the movie was not wanting to draft someone because his girlfriend was ugly (with some interesting logic behind this). But when we are done laughing, think about how you have judged someone today – and repent! Then just sit back and enjoy the show.

Later in the evening…
I got a shocker when a friend I’ve known for more than 15 years unwittingly gave a one sentence evaluation of what she believes my persona to be. I had told her three of the women where I live regularly gossip about a new male neighbor. She said, “I didn’t know you had friends there. I just imagined you going from your condo to your car, not talking to anyone, and being your usual introverted self.” I didn’t argue, just said that even in a place where most people go from their condo to their cars without talking, in ten years I have talked to a few people.

I chose not to get hurt or offended . But I was shocked that someone I’d considered a best friend for many, many years didn’t even know me. It can be helpful to know when others see us differently than we see ourselves. Yet, the same person told her husband that I am the person she has the most fun with. Before that, he trusted me to keep an eye on her when we travelled – to keep her out of trouble. Now, he’s not so sure he can trust me! (I assured him he can.) It did give me some context to think it all through, instead of losing my peace about it. (I also checked with another friend who said, “You? You’ll speak to homeless men in the park. I wouldn’t worry about it!” ,

John 14: 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” NIV Version.

*Song by Lenka titled The Show, with the last lines changed. Buy Lenka.

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer."We..." an e-book at: her art at: Artist Websitesand