Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. - Rumi

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Playground (for grownups)

"The body is shaped, disciplined, honored and in time trusted." - Martha Graham
I have always loved physical exercise.  When I was little living in Hawaii we ran around all the time, we were barefoot and outside or we were at the swimming pool or beach all day.

My favorite time of day is going to the gym, it’s like my treat for doing everything else I do in the day.  I can’t wait.  The alpha girl in me rises up at the thought my heart pumping, my skin flushing and pushing my body to the limits.  My favorite activity was doing cardio: I was a cardio queen.  I made the best mix tapes I could think of, it was a dance video party and I was the star.  I move my arms, wiggle my hips and sweat, sweat, sweat.  I actually regard this time as therapy.  I was solving my problems and working out my frustrations. After 55 minutes I was calmer and ready to go back out into the world (no more dance queen, just peaceful).
Then I got brave and began lifting a little weight.  I started with the leg press machine and that was my favorite thing, I loved the pushing.  Eventually I added upper body exercises and core moves.  My least favorite is working my abs and of course they need it the most.
I love being in the gym.  It is a playground full of toys (machines) for me to explore. 
I think one of the reasons I love it so much is that I am a physical person.  That’s probably why I like teaching, you don’t sit in one spot and are constantly moving around.  I like moving around.

Recently I discovered how wonderful it is to have someone (a trainer) tell me what to do in the gym.  I love it and hate it at the same time.  Love it because I am totally out of my self and into the oneness of my body and hate it because I am being pushed to keep moving and not at my pace (good lesson). For one hour in the time space continuum, I am completely present in the moment connected to my body.  Nothing else can exist for me but to pay attention to what I am doing, what my arms and legs are doing.  I keep moving when I think I can’t move anymore.  Of course because I love being in the gym – I can’t help a little trash talking, after all it’s the playground and sometimes I am sassy with my playmate (trainer).  When we are finished I always feel fatigued and my endorphin levels must be elevated, because I am tranquil walking out of the gym.
Then I want to do it again, on a different day after I rested. That gives me confidence, a confidence to try new things.  It gives me different image of myself. I can flip off the chatter about my body type or my capabilities because I don’t give up in the gym. 
I never give up and now I translate that to my everyday life. 

watercolor on watercolor paper

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Women I love, admire, and inspire me

Recently I queried myself….if I could meet any woman in the world, who would it be?  Why would I choose this woman?
And I had to really start thinking and thinking and thinking.
What were the criteria for my choice?  And still I did more thinking.

At first I was sure I would want to meet Oprah.  Doesn’t everyone want to meet her?  For a few years I was a dedicated Oprah magazine devotee.  Nope.

I found that as I processed what my criteria would be certain standards became important. I think any person who reaches a high level of proficiency in their work has had to make many personal sacrifices and work hard to get there.  A woman showing exceptional intelligence without any flashiness, distinguished in the political arena—a woman whose power has global reach.

The first person I would love to meet is Condoleezza Rice. She is on the top of my list of women I would love to meet.  She was born in segregated south and became a very powerful woman, a memeber of a President’s cabinet, the Secretary of State. She had the attention of politicians all over the world. That she is an educator, a professor at Stanford was another interesting tidbit about her. 

The next woman I would love to meet and hope I do one day is Mrs. O, Michelle Obama.  I follow the website about her style consistently.  I love that she was a lawyer, has two beautiful daughters and has worked hard for everything she has.  She gets to rock some really beautiful clothes and I like almost everything she wears. Erikson Beamon made jewelry for her.  They also made a line for Target; I had to have a piece.  The search for the jewelry was an experience because it wasn’t available online or in any of the local Targets.  My cousin found them in a Target in North Carolina.

Condoleezza and Michelle are powerful women of color in a world predominated by Caucasian men. Daunting.
As an educator and artist, it is quite fascinating for me to write these words and observe that my first choices aren’t women who are artists or writers.  I chose women in the political arena.  Why?

I think because I am so interested in educational reform, change in our world: these are women who make a difference and there are few African American women in high places of power. How auspicuous for little brown skinned, mixed race girls to have these women to look up to as role models.  Actually how wonderful for children all over the world to see visable images of powerful women of color.  Optimistic for the future.
Women artists who inspire me?  A topic for another blog entry.
Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall
watercolor on watercolor paper

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Life Long Love of Reading

I love children’s books.  I love books, art books, novels, fact books, biographies, poetry books, encyclopedias, and dictionaries.  There is nothing so delicious as a book.  It transports one to an imaginary world rich with infinite possibility.

I think it is so important for children to be read to, to have books available to them on a regular basis. One childhood memory I have is of having a set of encyclopedias and a set of fairy tale books.  I don’t remember when I started reading, but as an imaginative child I was transported into the story.  I was Thumbelina living on a table, I was Cinderella waiting for the prince, I continue to be a voracious reader. 
I especially think poetry is important for young children to be exposed to. As an educator I try to incorporate reading to children in every experience I can. 
When my sons were little I read to them every night.  I often fell asleep reading to them. 
If as educators, our goal is to develop literate children, reading to children has to be important.  Children build their vocabularies, their thinking processes, their ability to tell stories and understand the world around them from being read to. From seeing the adults around them value books.
Every teacher I know has a favorite author or style of books he or she likes.  I like books that rhyme and are funny.  Also books that have problem-solving between the characters. Right now my favorites are also books where a weaker animal outsmarts the cunning animal, like pigs and foxes.   Like  My Lucky Day and Piggie Pie.  Also I love, love fairy tales where the heroine is a girl.  All of these speak to a change in the status quo of storytelling where the prince always rescues the girl.  The prince doesn’t always come in real life, what to do then? My all time favorites are the Princess and the Pizza, Tasty Baby Belly Buttons, The Seven Chinese Sisters and Pirate Girl.
These types of stories speak to the differences and diversity of the world we live in now, which is becoming more and more a global village.
One elementary school aged favorite is a book called Shakespeare Stories.  When my son was in 4th or 5th grade, we read the stories of Shakespeare, the Tempest, 12th Night, the Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, and Othello.  Another favorite was the BFG by Roald Dahl.  We would often discuss the stories and laugh about the development of the characters, which character we liked the most, what would happen if the story had gone in a different direction. It was fun and exhilarating to begin having conversations that had an analytical quality to them. 
Reading with a child is about taking time valuing relationship with the child and bonding.  Reading to a group of children and then having a discussion about the book and hearing the different points of view is one of my favorite things about teaching.  I remember reading Elmer to a group of 4 and 5 year olds and having a conversation about being different.  All initiated by a child making a connection and sparking her peers to think as well.
One book I will love for all life is Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.  I began reading this when my guys were little. And now that we are in a different part of the continuum, (them being young men now) it feels tender and bittersweet.  It is a book about a mother and her new baby.  
Books are a great part of the journey of life - reading to children, being read to by an child with emergent reading, in the moment joy connection and love.
My son  - continuing his literacy development

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Girly Side Comes Out: A Handbag Story

I love fashion, as much as the next woman. At the top of my list of loves, because let’s face it, we all have a favorite, I love handbags.  But not just any old handbags.  They don’t have to be designer this or that.  It’s more about personality.
As an artistic creative woman, I have to have a purse that speaks to my personality, my girliness, my whimsicalness – is that a word? Now that there is the internet I can look all over the place for something that is going to be individual and unique to me (that hopefully no one else has at least in LA).  And I love color.  Oh, and I love flowers. Cliché, but true of me.
I’ve considered myself a medium sized purse person, after all-- there’s the makeup bag, with at least 3 or 4 lipsticks of different colors, sunscreen, a pencil case, wallet, keys (3 sets), small notebook (never know when I might need to write something down), coin purse, oh….and 4 pairs of sunglasses (never know what color I might need- depends on how bright the sun is).  I found I like oilcloth bags for day.  They can take being laid on the floor, dirt (just wipe it away) and they can be so colorful.
I tried going small.  It just doesn’t work.  I tried doing without pockets. It also doesn’t work.  I have become something I didn’t think I would be, a big purse girl. I need all my stuff.  Heaven forbid, I don’t have all of my accoutrement – what happens if, if, if I didn’t have a selection of lipstick or my notebook or a choice of pencils.
For a while I was doing a rotation of a few purses.  Then I found one I loved more than the others and stayed in it for a year-- a whole year.  It was roomy, had pockets to organize stuff – too much stuff.  What do you do with receipts from the grocery store? So I decided to change out and in the process lost my flash drives both of them.  I am squeezed into a shoulder bag, but it is such a tight fit, it’s embarrassing, like trying to fit into jeans that are too small (but one is determined to wear). 
My favorite handbags and purses are by Cath Kidston.  I just love English stuff:  Molton Brown, Jo Malone, Orla Kiely, English accents, some English writers, the English actor Idris Elba(mmm on that handsome man). 
Cath Kidston’s handbags are like eye candy to me.  The colors just make me feel happy, and well the flowers – I just love flowers. She has me hook lined and sinkered.  It’s my go to when I want to lift my spirits, handbag shopping at Cath Kidston.
For a while I had a wish list on her site, now I am trying to tone it down, visit every once and a while. Well, there are a few French things I like, but mostly I like English stuff -- Like handbags, purses and Idris Elba.
A collection of colors and flowers

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Becoming a Parent (oh the humility)

Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.  ~Oprah Winfrey

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.  She never existed before.  The woman existed, but the mother, never.  A mother is something absolutely new.  ~Rajneesh

Sometimes I am very human and suck at the most important job I have to do on this planet – raising my sons.
One I birthed, one I gained though relationship. I care for and love both as much as life.
One of my earliest memories of humility on the path of parenthood was being at the Santa Monica pier with my then 5 and half year old step son.  It was time to leave, he was in the arcade, sensorily overloaded and happy.  His father gave him the five minute warning to go, which turned into the 20 minute warning – to no avail.  My step son was ensconced in the land of electronic buttons and games.
Finally his father picked him up and threw him over his shoulder, my step son screaming at the top of his lungs: “I don’t want to go home, your mean, I am not done playing”…..Me trailing behind feeling ineffective and embarrassed as hell. No one said anything, but I felt the stares and looks as we left the pier. The arcade is always a tough place for boys to leave, but this new parenting scene – rough.  Why can’t he or she just come along when we say it is time to leave and WHY would our children make it easy for us and co-operate?
Raising children is not textbook perfect.  Having just finished my certificate in Early Education a few years earlier, I thought I knew what to do, what to say.  But in reality I just got my butt whipped by this child (that defied being a text book perfect).  He screamed when he didn’t get his way, threw up after he had cried too much and I was appalled.
I decided that in practice Piaget didn’t know what he was talking about, did he have children in his home or did his methodology just apply to a classroom – which is neutral learning territory.
 On the home front, up close and personal is where the most intimate, raw, deep connections lay-- we don’t get to choose our parents, children, siblings. But my gosh we have to work out living, sharing and being with them.  Even unconditional love can be challenged.
Sometimes I think when we birth a child, we birth guilt. Did I make the right decision in handling a situation?
Was I too cranky in my response, did I snap a reply instead of thinking through an answer.  Am I too lenient, strict, sometimes it’s a lot to think about. It can go on and on.  Finally I got to a place of peace with myself. I practice mindful parenting. I practice repairing situations I think I have handled poorly, I try to be more lighthearted about things even if it’s serious. Thank goodness they outgrow tantrums and throwing up.  I stick to a routine and have rituals of nightly dinner and conversation – even if it’s take out. I try to say I love you as much as I can.  In the that is what it is about. 
Loving oneself, one’s child or children, the process, trusting love to guide the way ( with some common sense ofcourse).
Self - Portrait
watercolor, mixed media on watercolor paper
manipulated in photoshop

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reflecting on Twenty Ten

While driving to work recently, I realized that 2010 is almost over.  So much happened to me that is beyond good or great.
In my head, a chorus sings “Hallelujah”, and I, I am bursting with love, joy and gratitude.  Not only did I survive my son’s senior high school year, he got everything he wanted and is on to the next journey in his life.  I also began the change.  I rode this colossal bittersweet wave of change on the surfboard of life.
I have so much to be thankful for.
I made mistakes on deadlines and filling out forms for my son.  I had a car accident. I was trying to begin my life as an adult woman and date.
I kept picking myself up and moving forward. I kept my eyes on a marker – not a finishing line and continued sprinting toward it.
My heart continues to burst.   Even in the midst of the challenges that I am facing, I feel so so so grateful for all the beautiful, warm and caring people in my life - I feel so thankful that I get to do what I love:  working with children.
I am giddy with joy and bursting with a desire to just be the best person I can.
I am learning to do nothing when I am not sure what to do and letting situations unfold.
I am working on myself.  I am doing my art.  I am being gentle with myself.  I am treating myself like someone that I like and want to be with. I am asking myself questions that I never asked before or thought to ask.
What does love mean to me?
How do I show the people I love that I love them?
How do I show love of myself?
I am valuing and treasuring my relationships and all of the people I interact with on a daily basis. I am treating people the way I want to be treated at least trying. 
In the mornings when I wake up, I think of as many things as I can to be thankful for. Hot showers, oatmeal with raisins, red lipstick, Uggs, soy ice cream, the gym, music, making art, hematite for grounding, green tourmaline for my heart chakra, beautiful children, laughter with colleagues, clarity, focus, discipline…. There is more but this is an auspicious beginning.
I am thankful for getting to express myself and letting out my joy.
Twenty ten – this year has been one of the best of my life.
I worked so hard. I didn’t give up, I pushed myself to the limits of my ability in everything. I tried new things, spurred on by a friend, I loved everyone I came in contact with (mostly) and really intended to be positive everyday.
The Prayer
Gouache on watercolor paper

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How I Got Here (here being who I am)

I was born one fall November day on a military base, in the Sacramento Delta. According to my mother, I just slid into the world and she thumped my foot so I would breathe.  (Not bad for a new start on this planet, right?)

At the age of 4 or 5, I was whisked off to a small Asian island called Taiwan.  There I lived for the next 3 or four years, immersed in the culture.  I rode around town in a petticab and tormented the koi in the pond in front of our house.
I learned to speak Taiwanese. Most vivid in my memory are children half dressed running around in the dirt streets, a woman with hair down to her ankles that walked through the market, the smells, the sounds, the music, the water buffalo.  I went to an American school called Jonathan Wainright Elementary.  There I began kindergarten.  I loved the color red or fat red crayons, they fit nicely in my little hand.

I think I have always had a vivid imagination. I told my sister she had been bitten by a dragonfly when she was little and dragonflies don’t bite.
My parents weren’t artists, didn’t think about visual art, except my dad loved jazz and I listened to Brubeck on a regular basis as a little girl. 
I ended up in Hawaii for elementary school, middle school and the beginning of high school.
The majority of my developing years were spent steeped in other cultures. 

I was an imaginative little girl, with no where to go. No teachers that valued my overactive imagination,
Or supported the development of my creative self.
Not even in high school, which is where some kids find themselves.
Nope, not for me. I had to go to college and begin flunking out to find my true self.
I was born an artist,  I was born with creativity pouring out of my fingertips, but no one in my family recognized it. 
I began to thrive in the art studio of my college,
I  began to flourish in creative writing class. 
I began to emerge a swan and find a place to express myself and feel good about myself.

By and by looking for my true self, I found it, sitting in a nursery school yard, waiting for an interview, when a little girl came up and gave me a hug.  All the dots connected and I began my life’s work.  I love teaching young children, everyday is different.
Before I had my sons, because I had studied the theory of human development I was an expert. Nope, I lay no claim to that title anymore,  I have been humbled by the experience of being a parent. That’s a whole other topic, but I am humbled everyday by the children I teach and interact with everyday. I am grateful for the opportunity to be apart of their learning and because I had teachers that didn’t see me, I work extra hard to see them.
It’s about being present, right here, right now.

It's About Love...
(one in series)
mixed media on canvas panel

 "I found I could say things with shapes and color that I couldn't say any other way -- things I had no words for."
Georgia O'Keeffe, American, 1887-1986

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thoughts all over the place

For the last year as I dreamt of beginning this blog, my thoughts were all over the place. I wanted to discourse on politics, children’s rights, women’s rights, my point of view regarding the educational system here in the USA, the world, globilization, the Governer’s race, prop 17 or 18.
I felt like this chatty little field mice and sure I could solve all the problems of the world.
I wanted to discuss my point of view about all that goes on in the world around me, my children, the children I teach, the families I connect with, the adults.
My perspective is gentler, kinder, more humane.
I wanted to howl for rights for children who don’t have health insurance or food or shoes or good books to read.  I want to scream for babies that don’t have enough diapers in a day and have to wear the same one all day so that their parent can stretch it out.  I want to holler for the women in the congo who have been treated so atrociously in the name of tribal war and genocide.
And could someone (those in government and education) agree on the importance of literacy in the development of a young child.  Children have the right to be read to and the right to be listened to. 
Who is accountable?
Who can make a difference?
Well, put me in charge – I can.
Who can lay aside their personal agenda for the betterment
of the general population?
Not sure I can do that one.
My brain overloads on wanting to see there be changes
In the world.
Okay – now I have said all of what bounces around in my head, think I have to make some art. Focus on something tangible, something I can be in charge of. 
I know ---- me.
This is my favorite poem of all times – well one of them
I have loved Nikki Giovanni since introduced to her as a teenager.  This sums up a portion of who I am.


i used to dream militant
dreams of taking
over american to show
these white folks how it should be 
i used to dream radical dreams
of blowing everyone away with my perceptive powers
of correct analysis
i even used to think i'd be the one to negotiate the peace
then i awoke and dug
that if i dreamed natural
dreams of being a natural
woman doing what a woman
does when she's natural
i would have a revolution
(From the women and the men)

watercolor and collage on watercolor paper

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just Begin

This blog has been a year in the making. Finally, I am beginning a new project close to my heart. Children,  being a parent, teaching, art, life, sharing knowledge, learning to blog - making my ideas visible to share with others.
A first entry - a tabula rasa. I stare at this page and almost blank out at the enormity of taking on the task of sounding eloquent and passionate and clear. Yet once I begin moving forward I keep moving, each word easier to type than the last.  The shape of an idea forming as the words flow onto the page.
This is about hope, love and beauty everyday - a journey and reflections of practice. The growth that self reflection can bring about.
I work with parents, children of all ages, teachers and people whose lives coincide with mine on the path of life.  We all have a gift and something to share with each other, sometimes the "gift" of the experience isn't known at the time it is happening, but our brains remember and the knowledge is available when we must have it.  Consistently, I am reminded of the sacredness of life.  I long to be an integral part of  change on this planet.