The Gentle Giant

Exactly 2 years ago (the day after Mother’s Day) we watched my Daddy take his last breath. He was our Rock and my Idol, and I was his ‘baby girl’. My father-in-law called my dad the ‘Gentle Giant’... He was a striking 6’1 tall man (many say he looked like an older Tom Hanks) with a deep voice, a hard hand shake, but the purest and kindest heart. When you love someone so endearingly that loss is always present, but we honor them by marching onward and keep living the love and legacy they created with and for us. He’d want that.

Our dining room. (Stay with me, there is a correlation here) 

When Charles and I married we were extremely fortunate to inherit a complete dining room furniture set from my in-laws and we had the traditional chairs recovered in a gold and Burgundy checked fabric. In 1995. Every day for the past 15 years, I’ve walked through this small dining room, turning my body a certain way to shimmy behind the chairs and open the door into our renovated kitchen/family room. Traditional, crowded, and did I mention ---1995. 

Meet our Sozo artist and friend Laura McCarthy.  For those of you who haven’t met her, well you should. She is genuinely a breath of fresh air. Extremely witty, authentic with a capital A, and she teaches yoga and mindfulness to incarcerated or currently homeless friends, as well as friends struggling with addiction, through her non-profit  Laura is the ‘baby’ of five and lost her sweet Virginia-bred Daddy a few months before I lost mine. After her loss, while stumbling through her grief, she found comfort by reading Japanese death poetry. (Meanwhile, I was reading Tracy Curtis blogs and drinking a lot of La Crema). Inspired by the death poetry and her personal grief, Laura created a soulful series of internal landscapes. Beautiful big white backgrounds with thoughtful, gut-wrenching paint, pours, and textures of black, deep brown, gold, and hints of pink. 

Meet Yamoto Takeru-No-Mikoto: 


When I saw this 6x6 diptych that Laura created, I cried. I knew nothing about this piece of art, yet I immediately felt it’s intensity and the light that radiated from the top right corner. When she shared the story with me about the Warrior, I, of course, cried more. 

Yamoto Takeru-No-Mikoto was a very well respected warrior in his Japanese village. He was a faithful father, husband and well respected warrior of the village. It was time for him to die, and he knew it. He walked to the beach and dismantled his robe covered in many expensive golden threads. He was searching for his Peace and was ready for his departure. His family was not. His wife and children chased him over rocks and dunes and sticks, and cut their feet along the way to convince him to stay on Earth just a little longer with them. To their dismay, he passed and in traditional Japanese style, flew off as a beautiful white crane. 


This is when your heart lights up SO big, you actually feel the work and you know it belongs with you. 

Bye Bye 1995 dining room. Yamo (my new name for him) now hangs in our most prominent place when you enter our home. We said goodbye to furniture used twice a year and the display of my grandmother’s antique wedgewood china and welcomed a room centered around the most magnificent piece of art, tranquility, light, and PEACE.  

My hubs jokingly says we now have a pretty hotel ‘Lobby’…but I disagree. My heart swells every single time I see the work and I breathe in PEACE. I’m reminded of my biggest Warrior, cheerleader, advisor, confidant, and how when his baby blues looked at me I knew that I was loved, and quite possibly his favorite girl :)  (Sorry Sister) 

Many of Daddy’s most favorite days and memories were centered around family at our Lakehouse at Lake Wateree. If you close you eyes with me—you might see with me what I encountered often. A 9 year old Hannah swinging in a hammock in the arms of my Dad. In the distance at the end of our dock on a quiet evening we hear the bull frogs chirping, the comforting creak of our hammock back and forth/back and forth, the whip-poor-wills start to sing, the faint ripples and circles in the cove of the Brim catching Mayflies, and always always we’d spot a big white Crane—flying away into the peaceful dusk. 

A room - and a home - can most certainly be transformed around a piece of art. 

Come tell us your stories. We’ll help you find that piece that makes your heart sing.  

xo Hannah

Finding Me, Seeing You

Hi there. It’s Hannah and it’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged. You’ll start to see a pattern in our Sozo blogging. Smart and thought provoking (big words) means Sara Frances is at the keypad. A little all over the place and snarky trying to prove a point…then it’s me. 

We’re beyond thrilled to introduce Winnie Sidharta Ambon to Charlotte. Her works are much more mysterious and more thought provoking (to me) than anything we’ve ever shown at Sozo. “The Unbound Self” is a selection of Winnie’s introspective works that have intense layers of collage and paint. Winnie joins together the two mediums beautifully and uniquely and uses women’s fashion magazines for most of her fragmented body selections. She’s cutting and pasting and painting and layering to create a ‘whole.' A whole which represents a deeper symbolism of women and identity. 

Winnie’s work has certainly connected with my deepest core of identity- being a woman and a mother. 14 years ago on Mother’s Day I felt bound, caged, and certainly not whole. Bound by a terrifying rare illness that left me paralyzed for 2 1/2 months, I was situationally depressed and desperately crying out to God and making deals with Him daily. Guillain-Barre Syndrome stole a little bit of my time, but it taught me how to be a fearless believer in healing and passion and rooting myself in faith. (Earth, Wind and Fire, R.E.M. and Ambien helped a bit too!) 

This month we’re giving proceeds back to NAMI Charlotte and Artist Recovery Movement. Both of these non-profits connect to those struggling with mental illness and recovery. Throughout our journey of opening Sozo, my heart has been deeply touched by those suffering and living with mental illness: a homeless friend, a neighbor trying to overcome the stigma of Bipolar Disorder, a neighbor who's son developed schizophrenia in college and unfortunately passed away, a yoga student of mine battling a severe eating disorder, a friend going through an ugly divorce. These situational bouts of depression or life long battles have really rocked my perception and understanding of being bound by a disease that effects not only the person suffering but their entire support group.

We all have a story. Some of us are fortunate enough to have suffered and recovered. Our past, our suffering, our own personal cutting and pasting creates our identity. Our whole. 

What whole are we tending to and nurturing? What perceptions are you making of your self or others that you’re only getting a glimpse of? 

These exploratory works of Winnie’s remind me that I am a wife and mother who will not be imprisoned to what society thinks we should be. 

Trying is enough.

(This was created LAST minute by my big sister Helen for a High School English paper assignment about 'Mothers' that she had forgotten to do. And   this   is what I have to live up to! All joking aside, it is framed and has been my parent's room for over 35 years. Simplicity and truth win.)

(This was created LAST minute by my big sister Helen for a High School English paper assignment about 'Mothers' that she had forgotten to do. And this is what I have to live up to! All joking aside, it is framed and has been my parent's room for over 35 years. Simplicity and truth win.)

Show up. Try. Repeat. 

Choose your own identity. Don’t allow society’s kiss on the forehead try to determine it for you. 

Own your story. Believe in others. Try seeing the whole. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all my mamas our there. Wishing you boundless love and high fives for showing up and trying.

It is enough. 

xo Hannah