Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Brush With Inspiration

Inspiration is like lightning—it’s difficult to predict where it will strike. 

A few years ago, while attending the funeral of Wilbur Waters--a man I’d known only as an acquaintance--inspiration hit. 

When I first met Wilbur several years ago, it didn’t occur to me to consider the life he had lived or what he'd once looked like.  He was, in my mind, exactly what I saw before me—a friendly, elderly man no longer strong enough to walk. 

There is a certain hierarchy at funerals when it comes to seating.  Those closest to the deceased sit at the front of the chapel, good friends come next, friends and neighbors after that, and those who sort of knew the person edge in at the back, which is where I sat.

Grabbing a program off a table in the lobby, I slipped in half way through the opening hymn, keeping my head low.  Wilbur had been a big guy (easily 6’5”) and had been blessed with a big family who loved him.  As the tributes began, I looked at the program and, for the first time, saw a photograph of Wilbur as a young man.  My mouth fell open.  I hadn’t expected him to look so . young.

It’s easy to not consider the entirety of a life, and, unwittingly, I'd done this with Wilbur.  I saw him in his electric wheelchair, never thinking that as a young man he could effortlessly load watermelons into the back of a truck, tossing them like they were as light as soccer balls.  It hadn’t occurred to me to consider who he had been.

Old age is something we, at least in America, often mock.  Just yesterday, Peter (8), wearing Groucho Marx glasses and a fedora, hobbled toward me, and said in a craggy voice, “Good evening, I’m fifty-two.”  When I said, “Hey, I’m fifty two!,” he tried again.  “Good evening, I’m fifty-three.”  Clearly, Peter sees age as a slippery, steep slope.  And maybe it is.  I'll let you know if at fifty-three I'm hobbling around and sporting a fedora.

Anyway, when I attended Wilbur’s funeral I was at the start of writing another book and was trying to flesh out a character named Walt.  At writing conferences, I had heard authors talk about the work they put into rounding out their characters.  One author explained how she found pics on Pinterest of people who fit the look she was going for, then stuck the pics up in her office so that as she wrote she could refer to them.

I looked at the photo of Wilbur as a young man and knew I’d found my Walt.  Before seeing Wilbur’s photo, I had known certain things about Walt.  I'd known he was an Idaho farmer, and that he was tall and strong and had a tendency to fly off the handle.  I knew he was protective of those he cared about, and stubborn.  That he had light hair and broad shoulders, but it wasn’t until I looked at Wilbur’s photo that I could see Walt.  When I got home I folded the funeral program in half and taped it in front of my desk, and when I wrote about Walt, I’d glance at it.  I glanced at his photo as I wrote Lana’s thoughts as she met Walt for the first time.

It wasn’t just that he was good looking, though he was certainly that, there was something familiar in his intense brown eyes, something strangely reminiscent about the slope of his slender nose and the curve of his lips, the rightness of the top of my head reaching just to his shoulders…. 

At some point during the revision process, the photo of Wilbur was no longer needed, Walt was alive in my head, and I took it down and soon forgot it had ever been there.  Recently, while attending a wedding, I was exchanging small talk with one of Wilbur’s sons.  He asked me about my latest book.  The conversation went sort of like this:

Glen:  Hey, what’s going on? I need to pick up your new book!
Me:  Yeah, it’s out there doing its thing.
Glen:  Almost bought it while I was in Utah.
Me:  Well, you can’t buy everything where would you put it.
Glen: Anything interesting to tell me?
Me:  Um…nope.

And that was it.  It didn’t cross my mind to tell him, Hey!  I had your dad’s funeral program stuck on my wall for a year while I wrote that book you almost picked up!  Wilbur had become Walt, and I had forgotten the source of inspiration for his physical characteristics!

Not only is this proof I suck at small talk (that would have been fun to share!) but also that at some point characters live and breathe, and become their own people, and it’s easy to forget the process you went through to bring them to life.

Many thanks to the Water's family for including a photo of their father as a young man in his funeral program and for being such an amazing family.  The story about Lana and Walt, Brush With Love, is now a Whitney Award finalist, which is very exciting for me. 

Right now, I’m writing another story, and trying to figure out what the male character looks like.  It will be interesting to see where inspiration strikes this time.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Joseph of Arimethea--A True Friend Of Christ

Image result for joseph of arimathea pictures

Hanging in our hallway is a quote from Henry David Thoreau.  It says, 

It is tragic when  people settle for a multitude of congenial acquaintances in place of a handful of true friends.

A true friend. How do they differ from the rest of our friends?

George Washington considered Alexander Hamiliton a true friend, and  J.R.R. Tolkien felt the same way about C.S. Lewis, but on this Easter day, my thoughts turn to Christ.

Who would our savior say he considered a true friend?

Among those he might mention, I am certain would be Joseph of Arimathea.

A member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph doesn't thunder in the pages of the Bible as do Paul and Peter, but he is important enough that he is mentioned in each of the gospels, and in those passages we learn not only what it means to be a disciple of Christ, but also a true friend.

True friends are good people 

In Luke 23: 50 it states, And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counselor; and he was a good man, and a just.
I think it’s worth mentioning that one of the first things said about Joseph is that he was good. If we're living so that our goodness is one of the first things people mention about us, we are well on our way to being the kind of people who can be a true friend.

True friends have courage
In Luke 23:52 we learn that [Joseph] went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And in Mark 15:43 it states that he went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

Begged, boldly, and craved--three words which send the message that Joseph was not going to allow fear or deference for Pilate's office to stop him from obtaining the permission he needed to remove Christ's body from the cross.

We also learn in Mark 15: 44-45 that when Joseph approached Pilate, Pilate marveled if [Christ] were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew of it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

Joseph was so quick to demand Christ's body that Pilate hadn’t yet received word from his servants that Christ was dead.  This meant that he had rushed there before anyone else, thus making sure the body of Christ didn’t fall into enemy hands.

True friends are generous

In Mark 15: 46 it tells us that Joseph bought fine linen, and took [Christ] down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulcher.

I’m not sure how one goes about removing a body that’s nailed to a cross, but I’m sure that it was more than a one or two-person job. Joseph, most likely, had to hire strong men to help him. And as they worked, I can picture him shouting, Careful! Do not lose your grip! Gently now! Certainly, he made sure that our savior’s body came off the cross respectfully and with care, thus playing a part in the fulfilling of the prophecy in Psalms 34:40 He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken.

Joseph’s care is also evidenced by the reports we have from those who saw our resurrected Lord and felt the nail marks in his hands. Had Joseph been less careful, those nail marks might have turned to gashes. As a true friend to Christ, Joseph made sure that wasn’t the case.

Another sign of Joseph’s generosity as a friend is the quality of the linen he purchased to wrap Christ’s body for burial. Had he spared the expense and just bought linen, not fine linen, it still would have been a kindness, but Joseph was compelled to do more. Joseph’s generous spirit also led him to give up his own tomb for Christ’s burial.

While Joseph’s generosity led him to spend money, a true friend’s generosity can also be found in something as simple as not withholding a compliment. True friends are happy when we the sun shines upon us, and stand ready with an umbrella when the weather turns stormy.

May we be counted with Joseph as a true friend of Christ--the one who is and will always be our truest friend.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sibling Revelry

Recently, a friend mentioned his brother had undergone quintuple bypass surgery.  As my eyes widened with concern, my friend tossed a hand in the air.   “He’s fine,” he grumbled, like his brother had just faked pulling a hammy. 

Sibling love is not a guarantee. 

I thought it was.  I thought that the kids I pushed into the world would automatically hand over a kidney for each other.  And I thought this despite me, as a kid, pulling out enough hair from my older sister’s head to stuff a throw pillow, and once giving my younger brother a (possibly deserved) black eye.  Scuffles with my siblings faded from memory as Rich and I started our own family.  Our family, we told ourselves, was not going to be a repeat of our childhoods. Our kids were going to love each other.

And they did love each other . . . except when they didn’t.

When the skirmishes broke out in our brood, Rich and I could have considered it a parenting fail, but instead, we took it as a sign--a sign that we should have another kid.  If they wanted to fight, we would give them more people to fight with!  Okay, I’m joking, but we did realize that parenting was going to involve brokering peace.

And while we didn’t get so good at it as to have attracted the eye of the U.N., we did have our own share of breakthroughs, and one Sunday afternoon that was exactly what I thought I was witnessing, a breakthrough.

I was in the kitchen (carefully organizing the utensil drawer) when I heard Sam say, “I love you.”  My heart fluttered with happiness.  Sam had said I love you, and before I could question to whom he was speaking, Caroline chimed in with, “I love you, too!”

Caroline and Sam were declaring their love for each other!  The words had come effortlessly!  And no one was dying!  This was progress!

We had always encouraged our kids to say I love you, and they did, saying it so often they seemed to use it like a period at the end of a sentence.  I’m going outside, love you.  Dad said to pick up milk, love you.  But that was mostly when speaking with us.  This was Sam and Caroline speaking to each other.

I’m a big believer in calling out bad behavior, so much so, that if someone were to make a Lisa robot, she’d have to be programmed to say, That is inappropriate!  But I’m also a big fan of acknowledging good behavior, and my children saying they loved each other was just the sort of thing that needed to be acknowledged.

I turned around, ready to compliment them when I realized what had just happened.  Sam and Caroline were seated at our dining room table, facing each other, and in between them was Deezsha.

They had both been talking to our dog.

So, the moment wasn’t a breakthrough, but it was a moment.  They were spending time together and were agreeing on something.  Come to think of it, it was more than a moment.

It was a win.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Life Changing Magic of Not Caring

No one told me that becoming a mother would feel like running on a hamster wheel—that the dishes, the laundry, the shopping, the diapers, the lulling a kid to sleep, the cleaning, the trying to figure out what to fix for dinner would feel like a never-ending cycle.  My mother might have mentioned the hamster wheel to me as a child, but I can’t be sure.  I was too busy back then earning my PhD in The Brady Bunch to pay close attention.  Had I taken a moment to look, I might have noticed her on that wheel, running as fast as she could and feeling like she wasn’t getting anything accomplished.  I might have even helped, done the dishes without being asked.  We sent a man to the moon, so I suppose anything is possible.

Of course, the adorableness of babies is a great antidote for the monotony of the hamster wheel.  Just when you think you’re maxed out, your baby smiles or your toddler says something adorable and you keep the hamster wheel in motion:  dishes, laundry, diapers, groceries, cleaning, fixing dinner, dishes...

But one day, I don’t remember when or how many children we had at the time, the hamster wheel got to me.  The never-ending cycle was more than I could take, and the thought occurred to me while emptying the dishwasher that instead of placing the utensils in their slots, I could dump everything in the drawer.  Sure, we’d maybe have to dig a little to get what we were looking for, but this wasn’t a drawer where sharp knives were kept, so what was the harm in that?  Dumping the utensils into the drawer felt freeing.  In that moment it was as if I was transformed from a lowly hamster, a mere cog in the wheel, to an eagle, soaring in the lofty heights.  Google eagles flying—that is what it felt like to dump the utensils.

I didn’t dump them with anger.  I was neither fuming nor frustrated.  I was just…done.  Well, not done, but ready to streamline, and dumping the utensils strangely seemed the answer.  Later that day when Rich returned home from work, at some point he opened the utensil drawer to reach for, possibly, a spoon.  “Which one of our progeny put away the utensils?” he cried.  “This may sound rash, but I am fully prepared to unleash a host of punishments!”

“Um,” I said, squinting as if, suddenly, a Sahara sun was shining in the kitchen.  “I did it.”

Rich tilted his head to one side and thought this over, his eyes crinkling with amusement.  Why he thought me dumping the utensils into the drawer was hilarious when just moments ago he had been ready to reprimand our children for the same behavior, I can’t say.  We all have our faults.  But, despite having worked a long day, Rich took the state of the utensil drawer as a cry for help from his wife.  And so, with his tie still cinched around his neck, he got to work, pulling everything out and putting it in its place, an impish smile all the while playing on his lips.

I shrugged and continued folding laundry.  I had been at peace with the state of the utensil drawer, but if Rich wanted to knock himself out that was perfectly fine with me.  But more than breathing logic back into our kitchen, Rich was taking a turn on the hamster wheel, and I needed that.  It wasn’t as if he’d never done so before.  He’d spent plenty of time on the wheel.  In fact, he was the sole hamster keeping the wheel spinning at night, getting up whenever a child cried out.  Not me.  This hamster flopped into bed and stayed there.

And, of course, the kids have all taken their turn on the wheel.  Julia, Caroline, and Victoria spent so much time spinning it when the littler kids appeared on the scene, it was like having my own mommy army, which was not only helpful, but incredibly sweet.

So, is the answer to have enough children so that they can spin the wheel for you?  I don’t think so. 
I think the answer is understanding what we’re really doing when we do all the monotonous things connected to motherhood and keeping a home.  We’re not spinning a hamster wheel, always running and never getting anywhere.  As Anne Morrow Lindbergh put it, what we’re really spinning is a web.

A web of love. 

And each silky thread (putting away the utensils, folding the laundry) in this web is important.  Maybe it doesn’t appear so when viewed alone, but when seen as part of a whole, as part of something bigger, something intricate and purposeful, each little thread begins to count. 
As mommies, we toil, always spinning the silken threads, but stepping back we see…

Our work is beautiful.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

How To Stay Out Of My Husband's Office--Marriage Tips From A Divorce Attorney

Rich and I talk about divorce all the time, not because we want a divorce (Hell no!) but because for more than twenty years he's worked as a divorce attorney.  My husband is an interesting study in contrasts—he’s a divorce attorney, a Mormon bishop, a child of divorce, and has been happily married for twenty-nine years.  His experiences, I think, make him uniquely qualified to talk about divorce, and so, for this installment of my blog, I’ve picked his brain about the D word:

Lisa:  Good morning.  How are you?

Rich:  Crazy in love, and you?

Lisa:  Same, but we digress..

Rich:  Not really.  In my opinion, in a healthy marriage, declarations of love should come as easily as breathing.  So, I’m just taking care of bidness, so to speak.

Lisa:  Take care of it later, I’ve got questions to ask you.

Rich:  And that is what I love about you.

Lisa:  What?

Rich:  Everything. 

Lisa:  Before our readers vomit, let’s get this interview started.  So, you’ve been working as a divorce attorney for twenty years.

Rich:  Twenty-Two.

Lisa:  Honestly, it’s a blur, but because you’ve been at it so long you’ve seen a lot of marriages end, and I’m wondering if there is one piece of advice you could give to anyone who is considering divorcing their spouse?

Rich:  Every case is different, one bit of advice isn’t really adequate.  For some it’s the only option, but for those who are not in that position, but still considering divorce, I would tell them this:  Divorce is hard.  If you’re considering divorcing because of finances or falling out of love, you need to understand you’ll most likely find those problems again in the next relationship.  So, to those couples, I would say, Don’t give up.

Lisa:  What is one thing you think a couple can do to strengthen their marriage?

Rich:  Spend time together, even if it’s just a half an hour walk.

Lisa:  Who is more likely to file for divorce, the husband or wife?

Rich:  I read that women file more often, but I can’t say that I’ve seen that in my practice.

Lisa:  Have you seen marriages end that you felt didn’t need to?

Rich:  Yes

Lisa:  And what made them continue with the divorce?

Rich:  Selfishness, more often than not.

Lisa:  Considering what you see in your practice, what advice would you give to someone who is at the beginning of a relationship?

Rich:  Don’t have sex.

Lisa:  Are you saying that because you’re just an old-fashioned guy?

Rich:  I’m saying it because 99.9 percent of the divorces I do are relationships where the couple rushed into having sex.

Lisa: If you could change one thing about the way divorces play out in the court system, what would it be?

Rich:  I’d like for there to be greater recognition by the courts that adultery is wrong.  The way it works now, a spouse has an affair and leaves, and the courts don’t say to the spouse who was betrayed, Hey, what happened to you was wrong.  I think it would be great for there to be a penalty in court for those who have affairs.  And I don’t mean that it would stop the divorce from happening, but it would be nice for the wronged party to hear in court that the behavior of their wayward spouse is wrong.

Lisa:  So, let’s say a couple is close to getting divorced, but they work at their marriage and avoid doing so.  What do you think are some of the benefits they will enjoy because they chose to stay together?

Rich:  There are plenty, especially for the children.  It’s nice for kids when parents can work out their differences, regain their footing, and the family can stay together.  And for the family there are so many social and financial benefits.  There is one house, not two.  One electric bill, not two.  One vacation, one Christmas, one table for the parents at weddings.  One trip to see grandma and grandpa.  The united front approach to life, if it can be achieved, really pays off in the end.  And there are studies that show that people who hung in there and stayed married, ten years later when interviewed again, were happy. 

Lisa:  And you’ve seen this?

Rich:  Actually, I recently overheard a nurse asking a patient how many times he had been married.  When the patient said two, she asked which wife he would marry again, and he said, the first.  To this, the nurse said, Yes, that is what everyone says when I ask them that question.  If it can be done, hanging in there pays off.

Lisa:  How should a married couple view divorce?

Rich:  They should see it as serious a question as whether to amputate a limb.  If you have cancer and there’s no choice, you choose to amputate to save your life.  And that’s how it should be with divorce—it’s a last resort.  My advice is to seek professional help.  If you liked each other enough to get married in the first place, there might still be a reason to stay married.

Lisa:  Do you think your parents needed to get a divorce?

Rich:  No

Lisa:  Any parting thoughts?

Rich:  Don’t threaten your spouse with divorce when you’re angry.  It sends the message that you’re only committed to the relationship as long as you get what you want.  Throwing down the D card isn’t part of a healthy marriage, so make a point as couple to not do that.

Lisa:  Thanks for the interview.

Rich:  Thanks for not making spaghetti again for dinner.

Lisa: That’s it for now.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

With Gun As Our God

It is more likely that the students that were killed at Douglas High School will be posthumously issued fines for running in the hallway as the bullets flew than it is that we as a country will put an end to the violence.   

We grieve, light candles, sing songs, make shrines out of flowers and photographs, and we bury the dead, but we don’t put an end to the violence. 

We cannot.

Because if after Columbine we allowed Sandy Hook and Douglas, as well as several other massacres, then there can be but one truth:

We are no better than the pagans who made human sacrifices to pacify their gods, and entertain the masses. 

And Gun is our god.

It’s not that we’re not nice people.  Honestly, nine times out of ten we’ll hold the door for you.  But you have to understand Gun is an angry, demanding god. 

There’s no way around it, every now and again there has to be a sacrifice. 

We know that to do it properly we should have built a stone altar, but there were Union problems with the stone masons, so we’ve put a modern spin on the ancient rite, and the sacrifices happen at our schools, or concerts, or movie theatres, which actually works well.

 Gun loves randomness and irony.

With a firearm as your deity, you accept that there will be another slaughter. 

Gun requires it.

It’s a stark reality, but I don’t think it hasn’t turned us into a bloodthirsty people.  We still love seeing who gets the final rose or the mirror-ball trophy. 

But, and I hate to admit this, it’s also true that our phone screens have become our Colosseum. 

We’re glued to the harried footage of children, who were worried about their next quiz, ducking for cover, and we scroll the names of the dead, reading with wide-eyed curiosity about who they were, and what they were set to accomplish. 

Our hearts tug as we consider the songs left unsung, the graduation tassels that will not be moved to the left, the empty chairs at Christmas dinner, and we light a few more candles, and even shout into microphones that the violence must end.

But we know, in time, there will be another slaughter.

What’s that? 

You want to know if this could be the last sacrifice to Gun that we as a country make?  That we do whatever it takes never let this happen again? 

You want to know if the list of the sacrificed could end with:

Scott Beigel,

Alyssa Alhadeff,

Martin Duque Anguiano,

Nicholas Dworet,

Aaron Feis,

Jamie Guttenberg,

Christopher Hixon,

Luke Hoyer,

Cara Loughran,

Gina Montalto,

Joaquin Oliver,

Alaina Petty,

Meadow Pollack,

Helena Ramsey,

Alex Schachter,

Carmen Schentrap,

Peter Wang

Not another name? 

Never another name?

I mean, it’s a beautiful sentiment, really it is, but…

We’re going to need a copy of that list.  Most of the dead were students, and we have it on good authority that they were seen running in the hallways.  And, you know, rules are rules.

And Gun is our god. 

Or maybe I’m wrong. 

Prove me wrong, America.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Owning A Piece Of Black History

Everett Griener had hoped to die in the house that he’d built at the top of the hill, to finish up the yard work, tighten a few loose boards in the fence, and then close his eyes and walk into the light.  But at ninety-one, and still in relatively robust health, Everett accepted that he, like the morning fog that clung to the orchards in winter, would slowly fade.  There was no way around it.  He would have to sell his house on the hill.

And so he began to pack.

The McKendricks, it could be said, had more children than sense, at least by anyone who had ever sat next to them on a transcontinental flight.  It could also be said that when they arrived in Florida, they did so with little more than a thin dime.  A dime, and lots of children.  And the longer they stayed in Florida, the larger their family grew.  Their house, however, did not.  If anything, it seemed to shrink, and, Mrs. McKendrick, it could definitely be said, was going bonkers.  “We need to find a bigger home,” she sighed.

And so they began to look.

Back when Dr. Martin Luther King was organizing marches, and a black man in the south could expect to feel the sting of the word boy on a daily basis, Livingston Roberts sat along the side of Highway 27 selling his latest paintings.  The world had told Livingston, or Castro, as his friends called him, that he would be a picker.  That was what all the black men he knew did.  Looking downward, they picked beans or strawberries or onions.  They picked all day long, and then got up the next day and picked again.  The world told Livingston, picking is all I have to offer a young black man with little education in the south.  Livingston looked at the beauty around him, picked up a paint brush, and said, "I don't think so."

And so he began to paint.

Not everyone who decides that they will make their money by painting instead of picking succeeds.  But Livingston knew from the time he was little that he could do it.  His parents had a painting in their home, and for years he studied it.  Then one day he announced that he was sure he could reproduce it.  And he did.  He hadn’t had any lessons or summer camps or the guidance from a local artist.  He just did it.  And the more he painted the better he got.

Maybe he was successful because he had always been a keen observer, the kind who could look up into the sky and study the clouds for hours.  Or maybe it was because it was in his nature to be hungry and generous—hungry for knowledge about how to paint better and always generous to share what he had learned.  But from the moment he took to selling his paintings along the side of the highway, people stopped and bought his work.  He painted on gypsum board because it was cheaper than canvas, and what he painted was what he knew the tourists wanted to take home with them—pictures of Florida.

It was hot and humid, the day Everett Griener pulled his Cadillac to the side of the road and walked with his wife toward Livingston and his paintings.  Livingston smiled at the small, blonde man and his equally small wife.  He always smiled when a customer came to see his work.  Everett explained that the deep red in his painting of the tree had caught their eye, and Livingston explained it cost 35.00.  Everett peeled off some bills from the wad in his pocket.  He always had money in his pocket.  The world, after all, had told him he could become anything he wanted if he worked hard enough.  Having purchased the picture, the Greiners went on their way, back to their home on the hill, where they deposited the picture of the tree with the splashes of red into a closet.

And there it stayed for 45 years.

When the McKendricks, a family who apparently didn’t know how to prevent a pregnancy, offered to buy the house that Everett had built on the hill, he walked them through it.  Fading slowly, as his body had every intention of doing, meant that he needed to pare down his belongings.  And so as they walked through the house, he asked the couple if there was anything that they’d like to have.  Mrs. McKendrick, who was always worried about taking advantage of people’s kindness, at first declined the offer, until, that was, he opened a closet and she saw a splash of red. 

“Could we have this?” she asked, without even pulling the painting out to get a proper look.

Everett Griener nodded.  “Of course.  Bought that on the highway from a black gentleman.  Never did hang it up.”

In forty-five years a lot can happen, and in the time since Livingston had sold the painting to Everett, lots had.  The Highwaymen painters, as Livingston and his friends were called, had gained the respect of the art community.  At first, their work was discarded and was easy to find at Goodwill.  But, with time, people took another look at the works they created, and then they thought about the times in which they were created—these men who were told to pick, and painted instead.  Their pluck, entrepreneurial spirit, and contribution to Florida history, not to mention black history, all added something special that the art world likes to call provenance.

And the prices went up.

All the McKendricks knew was that they liked the splashes of red, and so they hung the painting in the house Everett Griener built on the hill.  And there it has stayed for the past ten years.  A lot can happen in ten years, and in the ten years since the McKendricks were given the painting a lot did.  They learned that the painting was a picture of a Poinciana tree, and that it was created by a man who sold his paintings on the side of the highway, a man who had been told to pick, but painted instead.  They learned that Livingston Roberts died in 2004, and that there is a statue of him in Fort Pierce, the town where he grew up.  And they learned there was more to the painting than the pretty red color.  They admired his brushwork, and his ability to create a brooding sky.  They also learned that people wanted to buy their painting, this slice of Florida history.  "No," said Mrs. McKendrick.  "Not even if we were down to our last dime. We’re keeping the painting.”

And so they have.

To learn more about The Highwaymen of Florida visit floridahighwaymenspaintings.com