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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Caring About Babies and Families: LA Diaper Drive

"The road to success is not crowded. Because while most are looking for ways to take, the truly successful people are finding ways to give. With a giving attitude, every situation is an opportunity for success." 
- Unknown

I remember being 5 or 6 years old, living in Taiwan and seeing little half naked barefooted children, dirty, running around in the streets in packs.  I was on a bus, clean, fed, well dressed, shoes on my feet and headed to school. That memory has stayed with me my whole life. I was a young child. Our memories from when we are little stay with us stored in our brain. Some of these memories are stronger than others because they create a deep feeling in us.  Or we see something out of the ordinary for what our own personal experience is.

My adult life I have spent teaching children. Loving them, caring about the development of the students in my care.
I have raised my own two sons. Dedicated my time and energy to them growing and giving them all I could give.
Now that I have mostly accomplished that goal, my eyes began to turn to what I could do next.

I read an article about a woman Caroline Kunitz, a parent at my school, who with a partner had started LA Diaper Drive. Caroline and a friend started the LA Diaper drive to collect diapers and distribute them to organizations that support low income families.
I learned that women on public assistance cannot use food stamps to buy diapers for their babies and that these babies sometimes stay in the same diaper all day.
That broke my heart. These babies didn’t deserve that kind of beginning to their life here on this planet. No baby does.
And yet the system set up to support them (public assistance) was neglecting an important facet of having a very small child. Keeping their bottom clean. 
I couldn’t imagine not being able to buy diapers for my sons or anything else they required for their growth and development.  Not that they had silver spoons in their mouths or got everything they wanted. They didn’t.  But they were kept clean and fed everyday.
It should be a right not a luxury for every incoming human on this planet to have this basic care. For children to be well fed and kept clean.  To have diapers, medical care, dental care, vision care.  Children in my opinion should never be turned away from any doctor’s office.  And their mothers should have access to basic necessities for their children, diapers, clothing, food.
We can help each other. I donate some of my time to helping
other people less fortunate than myself ( I don’t have that much, but I have a heart and care).   I care about babies. 
 If we all do a little, it adds up to a lot.
Check out this:  diaperdrive.com

The Heart
watercolor on watercolor paper

Someone asked the anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978), "What is the first sign you look for, to tell you of an ancient civilization?" The interviewer had in mind a tool or article of clothing. Ms. Mead surprised him by answering, a "healed femur". When someone breaks a femur, they can't survive to hunt, fish  or escape enemies unless they have help from someone else. Thus, a healed femur indicates that someone else helped that person, rather than abandoning them and saving themselves. Isn't that what we in philanthropy are all about? Healing femurs of one sort or another?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Art I am digging right now

recycled soda cans

In June, I drove up to Palo Alto to pick up my son from his first year of college.  A feat in and of it’s self.  He returns home a young man. I have to fight the urge to restore life to what it was before he left, with me running around doing all the taking care of him.  He is in charge of his life now. And I really, really, really want to respect that. No mama’s boy here. 

When I go up there I always make time to visit the campus art museum.
At the Cantor Art Center, they had a show of contemporary
California artists:  Bob Arneson, Janet Fish, Nathan Olivera, Viola Frey, Alice Neel, Wayne Thiebaud and many more, Frank Stella. George Segal, Calder, Manuel Neri (my sculpture teacher at Davis),Roland Peterson (my painting teacher at Davis).
 For a few of the artists, there was a dvd that you could press to hear either the artist or someone talking about their work.
One such was on Alice Neel.  The person sharing about her work was someone who had sat for a portrait by her.  Their words struck me as profound.
She spoke of entering into a nonverbal dialogue with her subject.  One where for Alice the first brush stroke was the hardest, akin to where to begin.  And also about how the subject has agreed to let her probe, the subject has agreed to let her see what she is going to see.
 Because I have never done portraits where someone sits for me, I was intrigued by the idea of how it goes down.  What the process is like from the point of view of the painter.  Each painter has a style and way they think. Which is reflected in the outcome of the painting. 
I have always been envious of realistic painters.  The ones that can make their paintings look almost real and of painters that paint realistic portraits.  What skill, focus, technique and ability to use representational colors.  I couldn’t do it.  Wait.
I could do it if I wanted to.  But I don’t.  I like Jawlensky’s work, the colors, the craziness. 
What I like about painting with acrylic is if you don’t like it you just paint over it. And over it, until you like it. 
Back to the Alice Neel.  Being probed, choosing to let the painter see what they are going to see.  It’s like being naked.
Except you are not, but baring yourself for all of who you are to be seen, there is a vulnerableness.  But also the painter has a point of view of what they are thinking when they begin the work.
It so impresses me that I took notes to remember this.
When I paint, I paint what I am thinking about.  I am vulnerable.  I open myself to be understood or misunderstood. Definitely I am responding to the stimuli of my environment.  One day I may try my hand at representational painting, for now I will enjoy looking at it.
For copyright purposes, I could not put any images in this post of the afore mentioned artists, but google them.

Friday, July 1, 2011

What I know for sure - my version

Quan Yin statue
Ojai Foundation
 Goddess of Mercy and Compassion
Protector of woman and children

At the end of every issue of O by Oprah, she writes an article entitled What I know for sure. For me it was always thought provoking and deep, well thought out and well written.  It would inspire me to make it through another day sometimes when I was down.   She has discoursed about relationships, self, food, working out, listening, etc.
Today when I was driving to my summer job, which I just love, I realized I have things that I know for sure.
That I love children, and working with them, even when it’s hard.  That I love my son’s, even when they make me crazy.
That I love my life, even when it’s hard and I want to cry like a little girl.  That I love my life when it’s good and when it’s not good.
More so than not I try to make good choices, even when the good choices are hard.
For instance, 4 months ago or so, I made a change in my eating habits. Now I consider it my life style. It was hard in the beginning, I felt wobbly, unsure when I was just going to buckle to my food desires. I really want a cupcake still. But I stick with it.
I know for sure that the more organized I am in my life, the more smoothly things flow, so I get up earlier and prepare my meals for the day. I always stayed a step ahead of what was happening. 

I know for sure that I am a go the distance girl.  I don’t give in, even when the going is tough, but know when to surrender to a uncompromising situation.

Somehow I survived years of financial struggling. I don’t know how I did it, how I kept gas in my car, and food on the table on a nursery school teachers salary. Let alone the roof over our heads.  I wore a lot of flip flops and men’s white t-shirts.
I know that when I am calm, even when the waters are stormy and I am sure I am going to sink it turns out okay.
One thing I do to calm myself is go to the gym. Moving my body helps me get out of my head. I have a gym membership I can afford and it’s less expensive than therapy or physical therapy.

I know for sure I am a good person. When I get the rewards back on my staples card, I always give the portion I didn’t use to the next person in line. Why not!

Even when I disliked my son’s father I never denied him access to his children. Why! Our problems were with each other, not our children.  I decided to let them get old enough to decide on their relationship with him.
I dislike him less now, time has a way of eroding that which is no longer needed in the human heart and soul.
I have come to the realization that one thing I know for sure is that life is full of ups and downs. 

People have let me down, people have really helped me out, people have talked about me, people have given me accolades. Sometimes I feel unfocused and unsure.  I am afraid. But what I know for sure is that I am always going to help someone out, love a child that I have in any class I teach, value them for who they are, value the people in my life for who they are and hopefully laugh, a lot. 
A lot, a lot, a lot. 
It’s what gets me through when nothing else does.