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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why are we as women so hard on our selves? Beauty is more than skin deep

It's important for all types of women to know that you don't have to fit a prototype of what one person thinks is beautiful in order to be beautiful or feel beautiful.... People think, Sexy, big breasts, curvy body, no cellulite. It's not that. Take the girl at the beach with the cellulite legs, wearing her bathing suit the way she likes it, walking with a certain air, comfortable with herself. That woman is sexy. Then you see the perfect girl who's really thin, tugging at her bathing suit, wondering how her hair looks. That's not sexy.
JENNIFER LOPEZ, Readers Digest, Aug. 2003
Urban interpretation of Manet's Olympia
watercolor, oil pastel on paper

Why are we as women so hard on our selves?
Why do we lack confidence in our abilities?
Why does it take so long (getting older) to realize we are competent, capable, incredible and fabulous just the way we are, with or without makeup, plastic surgery or other stuff?
Why? Why? Why?

In reading several biographies in magazines by and about women, one of the things I have noticed in older women is them commenting they wish what they know now they knew when they were younger.  Younger meaning twenties, thirties. 

I wonder about and question how is it that so many women are insecure about their looks, their abilities and talents.  Our hair is too straight, too kinky, our breasts are too big, too little, our legs are too long, muscular, our bellies to big, too flat, our noses, lips, etc., one could go on and on about how self conscious and critical we are of ourselves. 
Until we reach an age where it doesn’t matter anymore.
Or until we reach a point where we don’t care anymore.

Somehow on the path of life, I think in our younger years or preadolescent years we become self conscious of our bodies, our selves.  I think we begin to compare and wish for straight noses, blonde hair, or big boobs or long legs or curly hair or something other than our self.
I think the majority of these conversations go on in our heads because we are too embarrassed to say what we don’t like about our self out loud or do say it outloud.  
And also I think even if someone says you are okay the way you are, we don’t always believe it.
I really thing this needs to change and in a serious way.  What messages can young girls receive to support her in not falling into any of the traps of self-depreciating behavior? 
One thing I think is that it goes back to families.  What kind of message do we send our daughters when we comment on what they have done or think about doing.  Try to have conversations about loving who they are and how they look.  Discuss peer pressure, realistic expectations and letting her know she can always count on you (her parent to be there).

In my story, I had a father that thought nothing of calling me a dummy on a regular basis and I also heard Aunt Jemima on a regular basis, there were worse things but that is still pretty bad - no horrible for a preadolescent girl, I didn’t have a chance.  My self- esteem didn’t exist.
One book that is an excellent resource for parents is Self-Esteem: A Family Affair by Jean Illsley Clarke.  It is a developmental book that lists the stages of development and messages it is important to hear to support positive self- esteem.  It lists affirmations a child can receive beginning at birth with: I am glad you are a boy/girl.  Affirmations can be verbal and nonverbal.
Beginning affirmations are about being and being accepted.  Then she lists affirmations for doing (for learning).  Affirmations for thinking, affirmations for identity (learning who we are), affirmations for structure and affirmations for sexuality.
In her book she lists the ages at which receiving the message as a young child is important, but also that at any age a message can apply.  
woman holding up the world
mixed media on wood
This is one approach.  Maybe it can make some shifts in women’s perspectives of themselves.
I am positive that experiences in early childhood are important.  Experiences in problem- solving, exploring and learning about self and others are important components of most preschool curriculums. 

One large factor I haven’t addressed, for a reason, is the plethora of advertisements to buy cosmetics and this and that to make one look or feel beautiful.  I think the issue is deeper than that.  I don’t think it wrong to wear makeup or lipstick or dress nicely.  That’s the outside.  My main concern is the inside.  What happens when the inside voice lacks confidence and self- esteem.  Then we make bad choices. 
Each and every female on the planet is beautiful and has the capacity to be who they want to be.  Really it’s each and every child but I am focusing on women. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Questions I ask myself: Self Reflection

“As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.   I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.  In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, a child humanized or de-humanized.”  - Hiam Ginott

Self  reflection is a part of who I am, or better yet, who I have become.  I am always asking myself about the choices I make, or made and why I chose that.  Did I make the most informed decision that I could make? What prompted my motivation? 
Particularly in my work with young children do I utililize the powers of self  reflection.  I guess it is a professional tool, were my choices of lesson plans successful for everyone? Did I teach it in a manner for all to understand? Was I/am I patient with the children that require more guidance. 
It isn’t the work the children are doing that requires me to pause and think, it is the social/emotional interaction – my connection with them.  Did I hear/understand correctly what was being said? I know this sounds silly. But learning takes place on so many levels.
 It isn’t about learning to mix paint, or clay techniques, it’s how the child can interpret these learnings to express their ideas about the world and themselves.
When the lesson is challenging for a child, for example drawing a representation of a fish or musical instrument, guiding them through the process, without doing it for them.  I call it helping he or she get “to the otherside” (through the part that is challenging), to where the child feels confident about his or her ability to continue a representation and like it.  I have seen children use erasers a lot (a whole other blog entry).  

I feel like I straddle that fence of how much information do I give, how much visual do I show children in order to get them to do their own interpretation of a work. 
So I self reflect on my teaching style.  And if I feel I haven’t been successful for all the children in my group I change the lesson plan.  Even one child not being successful will make me change the plan. 

When I reflect on my self and my work, my goal is to help me be better at what I do, at least more mindful.  It doesn’t make it easier to work like this, it can be harder: to slow down and figure out how to support a child’s development and learning.
I filter the experiences I have with children through my own experiences.  And my upbringing while some aspects of it were delightful, others were horrendous.  Consciously or unconsciously we filter our lives through the lenses of our own experiences. 
So I choose to try to be as aware and mindful of the way I interact with children and adults.  I had teachers that didn’t really like me: I don’t know if it was my skin color or the way I acted.  I had a few teachers that I knew really wanted to help me learn and grow.  One of those was a math teacher in high school.  She was the only teacher that I did well in math with.  She also wore really pretty dresses. 
As a teacher, I am aware that I am responsible for the children when they are in my care, but that their parents are wholly responsible for them.  As a parent I realize that I am wholly responsible for my children and teachers support their growth and development when they are in their care.

When ever there were issues with my son’s in school, I looked at the whole picture of where they were developmentally, emotionally, what was and wasn’t happening in our family and what my gut feeling was about the situation.

watercolor on watercolor paper
summer 2011

I reflect on my parenting style.  Especially because I didn’t have good role models and I re-invented myself once I became a parent.  Becoming a teacher helped me immensely.  The requirements to understand early childhood development and psychology really supported the opening of my brain to grow and for me to begin to heal the wounds of my childhood and adolescence. 
I witnessed brutality in my childhood home, I strongly and very clearly knew that that kind of behavior would not be tolerated at all in my home. 

Mindfulness in my actions sometimes means I am in slow motion.  I look through what I see, feel and how I interpret what is happening around me: not that I can’t go faster, I do, but self reflection is a way of being that I can’t change about myself .

Monday, August 22, 2011

The skin care ritual – love the Spa

Be happy:  the principal thing in this world is to keep ones soul aloft. 
                                                                     – Gustav Flaubert

inside of collage box 2011

One of my favorite things to do is go to the spa.  I have been a spa going girl since my twenties when I discovered hot tubs.

When I lived in San Francisco, ages ago, there were two spas that I liked. One was called Finnila’s, it was a Swedish spa. It had this big open steam room and they gave you a cup of salt to rub on your skin.  A friend told me about it and one day not feeling well I went there, I felt better when I left.  I loved it.  Little did I know this would become one of my favorite things to do. It had a women’s side and men’s side.  The entry fee was like $12.00,inexpensive.
I don’t remember feeling modest about taking my clothes off, they gave you towels. Maybe you wore your towel in the sauna. 
Then I found a Japanese spa called the Kabuki Spa, also inexpensive, like twelve dollars as well.  It was heaven.  They had these little cabinets that you got into like a module to steam in.  I learned how to scrub my skin by watching the women there.  My skin became so clean and soft, I was hooked on this type of skin care.  So I would go once a month or so. 
This ritual of bathing became very important to me.  I would deep condition my hair, scrub my skin, soak, and relax.  I found this to be a deeply relaxing and spiritual experience.

It took me out of my world and helped me begin to develop some centeredness (I had a lot of stuff to work on).
I have tried places that were fancy or big or outdoors, but what I like is the feeling of safety in a women’s spa.  Sometimes it is a place for a conversation about things one isn’t comfortable sharing.  Sometimes it is a place for spiritual healing and physical healing.  It helps me connect to my inner self, it gives me a change to slow down.
I call it a sanctuary from the everyday craziness we as women deal with.  Working, raising our families, dealing with situations that require finesse: life situations can take it out of us.  Having a place to restore the energy spent or creating a space to unwind and relax, is very important.
Going there is one of the best things I do to take care of myself.  It is something I enjoy. When I come out I feel refreshed and ready for a good nights sleep and to deal with my stuff.
collage 2011
Everybody is different, and the routine I follow at the spa might not work for someone else.  One thing I think many people don’t realize is that our skin is our biggest recepticle for removing waste from our system, along with our kidney and liver. It’s important to keep our skin clean and having a place to sweat out toxins in our systems is healthy. I am a big believer in preventative care. 
Any things I can do to help my body be healthy I do to the best of my ability.

Not that I have always paid attention to my body. There were times when I didn’t. I paid dearly for it.  I used to get asmatic bronchitis.  Talk about not listening!! My lungs would spasm and I couldn’t breath or talk or cry.  I am still working on healing myself from that.  I had to take steroids, breathe from two inhalers and an antibiotic.  It was terrible.  I missed work and was told if I didn’t get better I would be put in the hospital.  My reflection is that life really sucked for me at that time.  I was so stressed out by all the stuff happening to me, I was not eating well, I was pushing myself to stay hopeful when I was scared, I was angry and I wasn’t safe.
I promised myself I would figure out how to heal myself once I got better.  I did succomb to the illness one more time, before I got it together.
Also, having children is time consuming and stressful: all that giving and cleaning and caring and problem solving.  Mom’s should have at least one day every couple of weeks to unwind and recharge.  I remember that I didn’t do so much for myself when my son’s were small, I was with them all the time.
One of my little tricks when they were little was to do a spa in my bathroom.
collage 2011
I made a scrub mixture of salt, cornmeal and olive oil plus a scent. I would mix this all together and give myself a good scrub in the shower(my skin felt baby soft afterwards).  This is one of my favorite recipes for skin care.  IT DOES NOT GO ON YOUR FACE. The face is an entirely separate entity and must be treated a little more kindly.  That depends on the type of skin you have.  BUT I highly recommend aloe vera gel for everybody’s face.  It’s good for your skin, I use it every day before moisturizing.
Everyone can use a little healing, centering time it helps us to be happy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ode to Oprah – her humanness shines through


Recently I began watching the final episodes of Oprah, out of boredom. My love for Oprah had waned.  I used to love, love, love her magazine, but when it changed I didn’t love it. 

The backstory:  Ten years ago, I had a subscription and gave my friends’ subscriptions to O the magazine.  I couldn’t wait each month for the magazine to arrive in my mailbox.  I salivated over all of the columns and loved the “My Favorite Things pages”.
I loved the monthly calendar that was thematic with profound quotes from different authors related to the theme of the magazine.  I loved the colorful layouts.  I found Jo Malone perfume through the magazine, now one of my favorites.  There was also a photo of a beautiful place in the world.  I would use some of the magazine for collaging and making gifts for my friends.
I also enjoyed the magazine’s What I know for sure page. For me at that time in my life, it was like a little bit of therapy: helping me along on my path.

Then, there was a call for teachers for makeovers.  This excited me because I am a teacher.  But, I didn’t make it past the first email interview.  Maybe it was the dimensions of my body.  But it turned me off.  It felt personal to me, because I had been through such a hard time.  I needed to be acknowledged or better yet, pampered for a minute.  I care for people all day, everyday.  I am a caregiver personality.
I was surviving: the loss of my stepson’s mother, separating from his father with two young boys, getting on my feet financially, keeping the roof over our heads and a challenging work environment.

After that, the magazine changed, I didn’t like the changes and I stopped reading.  And I was no longer an Oprah fan. I just looked at the covers of her magazines in the grocery store, occasionally picking one up and glancing through one but that was it.

What I found when I watched the final episodes of Oprah was a moving portrait of a woman who showed her vulnerability, brilliance, humor and caring.  I was not prepared for how much my heart warmed toward her and her staff. 

Seeing the final episodes shows brought me an awareness of how some things are taken for granted, for example: The time – the hours and days, organization and preparation that went into making something be special and wonderful like her  TV show. She has an amazing staff that has cared about her and helped make her vision a reality. 

Watching right now, I saw something different, I saw this woman that I liked and that I would like to be friends with and have deep conversations about everything under the sun.
 I saw a woman who had worked hard, made sacrifices and was human and vulnerable. I fell in love with her.  It didn’t matter to me anymore about whether I liked her magazine or her show.  It mattered that she was a phenomenal woman.  She had a career that spanned 25 years and she was smart and shrewd enough to know when to stop. 

So to you Oprah:
You are a phenomenal woman, a brilliant caring person, I wish you well on your journey. I wish you some carefree relaxed days, unwinding and enjoying the beauty of the sunrise, sunset, the sweet scent of roses and the delicious twinkling of night skies. 
Thank you for all the inspiration you gave me in my life, all the pages of your magazine I tore out, collaged and used as daily reminders to get me through some tough spots.  Thank you and thank all the people on your staff that made inspiration available to me and lots of other women.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Schiapparelli, Haskell, Hollycraft – who doesn’t love vintage jewelry

A little silver and blue bug
20's? a beginning

It all started when I was a little girl, I am sure.  I was sometimes a girly girl.  I loved dresses, and frilly socks and purses and of course lipstick.  Still love the dresses and lipstick.
Among the many things I am: mother, teacher, artist, gym rat, funny, vintage connoisseur, poet -  a lover of jewelry is one of them.  I love old stuff.

I collect vintage pearl necklaces.  I like to buy them for a dollar in the second hand stores or flea markets.
I love old dresses, especially forties.  Although some fifties are good too.  I like the feel of the fabrics: the rayon’s, the cottons, and the cashmere sweaters. I like how worn and soft the fabrics are because they have been worn in.

In my twenties, I began collecting vintage pieces of jewelry from this shop in the Haight Asbury in San Francisco.  The woman who owned the shop was absolutely delightful, she chatted about each piece of jewelry(she loved the jewelry as well).  It started with a little silver and blue bug pin.  I asked did she do layaway and of course she did.  So every two weeks for over a year I paid her for pieces of jewelry.  It began with the silver pin and moved on to Schiapparelli earrings, Hollycraft earrings and more.

two Hollycraft bracelets
circa 1950's

  I was in heaven.  It was the highlight of my week to go into her shop and hang out with her and give her money toward my purchases.
 Then one weekend when I was in Los Angeles, I went into a dress shop in Beverly Hills looking around and found another very interesting woman selling vintage jewelry.  She had a Miriam Haskell necklace that is my favorite to this day.  It has big pearls and a brooch type shape in the middle with a rhinestone. 

I got this idea that maybe one day I would have a collection that could be shown in museum.  That hasn’t happened - yet.

The most delightful thing about these women was the information they knew about the vintage jewelry they sold and I could tell it was their passion.  I learned so much from them, details about the jewelry makers.  I learned about how Schiapparelli’s costume jewelry pre -ww2 was made by Schlumberger, the diamond jewelry guy.  Miriam Haskell made a lot of costume jewelry for movies. 

After having children, my vintage jewelry collecting took a backseat to collecting children’s books and toys and sports equipment. Actually, I kind of forgot about my jewelry collection for a long, long time. 
Recently, just for fun, I googled Schiapparelli and a necklace that looks like a necklace I owned popped up.  And I had to go into my jewelry box and look at my stuff and find the picture of me in the 1980's wearing the necklace on Christmas day.  
Me & my Schiapparelli necklace
Christmas Day

What I love are the colors, especially of the Hollycraft pieces. They look like candy. And to my artist's eye they are a feast of pinks and blues and violets and purples. 
I think what appeals to me about vintage jewelry is how elegant a piece can be. It reminds me of a more romantic time.

My new goal for myself is to pull out all that candy colored confection and bling when I can and wear it again.  Some of it is really delicate and I have to be careful, but some of it can take a little more wearing.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Help – what is this really about?(my perspective)

Papillion -
butterfly of change
acrylic on wood

This spring I read the new book by Kathryn Stockett titled the Help. About black maids and the white women they worked for.  The time of this story is sixties and in the south. 
A very emotionally charged time in history in the United States with civil rights action happening everywhere.
While I did not grow up in the south, my father’s family is from Louisiana.  My great grandmother worked as a domestic worker.  Reading the book felt painful to me.
Revisiting the treatment of black people in the south: the brutality, disrespect and horribleness – too much for me.
It made me want to cry. It still does. 

Back to the Help.  The story begins around the premise of putting a separate toilet outside, for the maid to use in the house she works.
I was prepared to not like the story.  I was prepared for the hatred the white women had for their black maids and the mean way they would treat them, even though they needed them to help with their children and their homes.
Then the main heroine character appeared (the journalist).  I recognized her as some of the women I went to college with. Open minded, idealistic, aware of the plight of other races of people, she returned home from college aware that the small town she came from was full of inequity. And saw how her friends were treating the people that came into their homes (to make it better for them by cleaning, and caring for them) badly.  And thus a bargain was struck between the maid and the journalist. To tell the story of what being a domestic worker was like in the sixties in the south.

I guess my question is this: Why is this a pertinent story to tell? Again? Haven’t their been enough stories about race, racism, inequality, and class.  Will America ever move on from this? There are so many brilliant, black American women that have raised themselves up from abject poverty, fought against racism – where are their stories?  Where is Condoleeza Rice’s story, Rosa Parks story, where is Oprah’s story, where is the Johnson family story (Ebony magazine, Essence, Jet)? What about all of the successful writers, poets, painters, teachers, doctors, lawyers and business moguls?

My concern is that the Help perpetuates the stereotype of black women for a whole new class of women coming of age. 
I am curious to see how this movie is going to pan out. I am curious to see what response this movie will get from the masses.  What would be great would be if this could be used as a jumping point for conversations, open conversations about the inequity and inhumane treatment of people of color.
I don’t understand inhumane treatment of people, any people.  The holocaust, the wiping out of Native American people, slavery.  I actually don’t ever want to try to understand how one person could treat/injure or inflict an emotional or physical pain on another human being in the act of thinking they are better than them based on visual cues or religion or  (skin color, etc.).
In the end, this movie gives us another starting point for looking at ourselves. Seeing where our weakness is and healing it.  The Hollywood machine/entertainment industry machinations see this as a story worth telling.  Why? Besides making money what do they hope to get from this retelling of this aspect of American history? A period of time that was demoralizing, denigrating and heartbreaking.  Emmett Till comes to mind.  The people hosed by water for standing up for their rights to sit where they wanted, the people who had dogs turned on them, the bombings of the black churches.  The backdrop, the backstory to the Help overpowers it for me.  I see all of the other things that were going on at that time in history and I get dizzy and feel sick.

I am curious about other people's responses.

I have a dream that my four little children
 will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by
the color of their skin,
 but by the content of their character.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Two Hundred and Six days - Clean eating, working out, livin' the life

When future archaeologists dig up
 the remains of California, they're going to find all 
of those gyms their scary-looking gym equipment, 
and they're going to assume 
that we were a culture obsessed with torture.
- Doug Coupland

It has been 206 days since I began my journey to clean up my eating habits. 206 days. That’s a lot. It’s more than half a year. I am amazed. I just counted out the days, I have been lax, just moving forward, maintaining the plan, even though this is my favorite time of year to eat.
I love the fresh summer fruits and would eat them all day long if I could. Ripe peaches, lots of them, they smell so good, and plums as well. I love summer fruit and would begin my day with a piece and end my day with one.
 And popsicles. I love strawberry popsicles.  And can eat a whole box.
So I have learned restraint. I only have fruit or popsicles until 2 o’clock.  Then I am cut off. Actually I once got up at six in the morning to eat a popsicle. It was a little different so early in the morning, not sure I liked it.

I think my clothes fit differently now. I think my body feels differently now. I have been following rules to help it be healthy.
And working out a lot. I am feeling muscles in places I don’t think I had before.
Five pound weights are too light for me.  I am working with fifteens now. The twenty pound bar is too light for me, now I am accustomed to picking up a thirty or fourty pound bar.
The one thing I think I have found, discovered and hope to never let go off is my new found discipline. I want to roll it over to other areas of my life.
As with anything, beginning is easy, it is romantic and like a honeymoon.  Then the reality sets in, that a change or whatever it is must be continued to maintain progress. 
And then there are dog days, days when one really wants a pint of rice dream or a vegan cupcake or anything salty or some gummie bears.  I have learned to understand my food cravings and think about what I really am wanting.
I have used food for comfort.  To cover up emotions in situations where I didn’t feel strong enough to express my point of view. The physical sensation of over eating is powerful. It side tracks one from the emotional feelings.

I am grateful that I got this part of myself together.  This particular part of the journey hasn’t been fun for me. Two hundred and six days ago,  I looked in the mirror and realized what I saw didn’t reflect who I am.  Now I have to work on the part of me that let it be okay to be so out of shape and eat poorly.  I am going to start loving that part of myself.  I am going to start making sure I treat myself well.

~ If you don't do what's best for your body, 
you're the one who comes up on the short end. ~
Julius Irving