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  • Writer's pictureLaura L

The somewhat ironic juxtaposition of my Home & Design magazine arriving just as I dash out the door to certify my dad's lease renewal (at his welfare apartment complex)... As luck would have it, the formerly homeless man whose apartment I furnished was hanging around the lobby and recognized me. He made another comment about how strange it was that I have a parent who lives there. "You just don't look the type!" he exclaimed again.

What is the "type," anyway? I don't mean aesthetics; I know what poor people look like. What separates the people who spend tens of thousands renovating their homes to look like a literal magazine, and the ones who go to bed hungry at night? Each of my dad's neighbors have their own stories. The apartment manager told me once that most of the residents actually did work their entire lives and simply ran out of money by the time retirement came (or they outlived their retirement savings). They live in pretty harsh conditions -- some don't have any furniture, many are food-insecure, and all live in poverty.

The "human rights" argument has never rang true to me; it feels like almost a straw man's argument. Of course it's not a "human right" to be entitled to nice sofas, stylish dining tables and top-of-the-line comforters to tuck ourselves into at night; of course our poor have it easier than the third world's poor.

Still, in a country with all this money, where a not-insignificant number of people can obtain lavish holiday dinners and SUVs and the whole white picket fence dream -- surely, there is room for some relief in the world where these residents dwell.

  • Writer's pictureLaura L

Tonight S & I went to the Van Gogh live experience in St. Louis. Van Gogh is my favorite artist, but I also never fully humanized him: he was just "that brilliant, crazy artist" who cut off his own ear in a rage and (perhaps inevitably) took his own life years later.

The exhibit plainly stated that Van Gogh’s life was one of both extreme triumphs and extreme failures. These words really hit me: “Far from the dark madness that accompanies the legend of his genius, Van Gogh’s work radiates of joy and celebrates life.” His suicide and untimely end in no way negates the wondrous beauty of Starry Night or Cafe Terrace. It makes me think: Min was such a funny, vibrant, big-hearted, and insanely talented human being as well. His tragic ending should not take away from any of that.

I am not someone who has ever thought of heaven as a place literally paved with gold. I don’t know if I’ve ever conceptualized it at all, actually. But when I saw these paintings populate the walls around me, one by one, I suddenly did get a sense of what the afterlife holds. I’d like to think that he — and Min, and all the sensitive souls that left us too early — are doing the same in the next world, filling everything with magnificent colors, making it as full of life and beauty as they did here.

  • Writer's pictureLaura L

I interviewed for one of those "big jobs" this morning that made me feel both insecure and under-qualified. Then a GIGANTIC grasshopper landed on my steering wheel as I drove to work, causing me to scream bloody murder. Being a silly superstitious person, I of course Googled what grasshoppers "mean." Apparently, grasshoppers symbolize good luck and abundance.

I loathe associating spirituality with money. I keep my mouth shut when people "pray" for money; I don't feel it's my place to judge. That said, I'll always push back against the concept that privileged people are better than the downtrodden, or that blessings are in any way a reflection of a person's status with God (or evidence of one's virtuosity). To the contrary -- I distinctly remember learning that all saints must sacrifice and suffer. To equate earthly success with holiness is literally the opposite of Christ's teachings. (There are certainly "privileged" people: my friends and I jokingly called them the Blessed. But I do not -- and will never -- believe they are closer to God than some poor kid toiling away at a sweatshop in Bangladesh.)

So, I won't consider this comically large grasshopper a sign of wealth to come, or any of the "blessings" I've had to be evidence of me being supremely aligned with the Almighty -- but rather, a reminder that there is a great deal of work to be done on this Earth, and someone with over-sized luck BETTER be performing over-sized deeds.

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