Saturday, May 31, 2008

It is What it is, and That's All That It Is

"I speak without reservation from what I know and who I am. I do so with the understanding that all people should have the right to offer their voice to the chorus whether the result is harmony or dissonance.
The worldsong is a colorless dirge without the differences that distinguish us, and it is that difference which should be celebrated not condemned. Should any part of my music offend you, please do not close your ears to it. Just take what you can use and go on."
~Ani DiFranco

I recently had the pleasure of taking my daughter Lindsey to her first concert. As a supporter of public radio I was given two tickets to an intimate concert event with Ani Difranco, American female poet of our time:

American female poster child of "What Is."

The details of the event weren't given until the day before, and it was first come first serve, standing room only. We arrived early enough to secure a place in the second row, where we stood for an hour awaiting the show to begin. Regaled with tales of concerts past, from die-hard fans from all vicinities, Lindsey was indoctrinated.
We were front and center, my daughter and I, she, standing perfectly behind and between the two friends; one short and one tall, who had met at an "Ani show" many years prior.
I was standing behind the tall one, so my view was sometimes obstructed.

The fans, being socially conscious, were well behaved, but held their ground when tested by encroachers who wanted to get just a little bit closer, just a little nearer the performer's hypnotic, self confident, inspiring "As is" presence. Each fan had her own territory, her own space, which was determined by both timing and zeal.

I could feel the frustration of the patron behind me who was considerably shorter than I.
At the same time, I am obstructed and the obstructor.

"But my 5 ft 7-ness is a fluke," I nonverbally protest; both of my parents are vertically challenged.

But Such is Life.
At one time or another, you'll be standing behind "the taller one," who inadvertently obstructs your view of "What is."
We may have to move left or right of center to get a better view, but there will be times indeed, when we must hold our ground with zealous roots, and we too may inadvertently obstruct the view of the considerably shorter.
Fluke or not.

We try not to encroach, as we get just a little nearer
self confidence and inspiration,
acknowledging that each of us wants to be accepted "As is,"
equipped with our own territories; our own space,
which is
determined by both timing and zeal.
We are Each, our own particular poster child of "What is."
And It is What it Is.
“My idea of feminism is self-determination, and it's very open-ended: every woman has the right to become herself, and do whatever she needs to do.

~Ani DiFranco


Friday, May 30, 2008

You Can't Eat Pasta Fagioli with a Copper Fork, Or Can You?



Have you ever eaten a salad with a fork made of copper wire?
 My Dad Has.
 In his Adkins Diet Days, my mom regularly sent him to work with a salad and some tuna fish. One day, however, he forgot to bring a fork, so he crafted one with some copper wire, and a pair of pliers. That was over thirty years ago, but we still have that fork. I think it's a good reminder of what we're really capable of  in a pinch, and how, no matter what your  resources, there's always a way to make do; There's always enough.
The deeper you reach your copper fork into the basket, the greater your potential to produce more loaves and fishes.

After all, the ability to make do is often born of necessity. 
 Exhibit A: Pasta Fagioli (FAH-zool)
A delicious Bean and pasta soup, rich with thick broth and roughly cut vegetables?
or
 an inexpensive protein rich meal  birthed of the Great Depression?

There isn't an Italian grandmother alive who can't expand a pot of pastina  with a few extra eggs and some additional broth to accommodate a station wagon full of  grand kids dropped off at a moments notice. As  my own Grandma Jo- Jo would say, 
"There's Plendy for all. Plendy, Plendy."

But you don't have to be an incredibly resourceful father of seven with a copper fork in hand, or have lived through The Great Depression  subsisting  on Pasta Fagioli and pastina to know how to make do.  It's innate in each one of us, whether we're backed into a corner, or we just want to know how many bowls of rice our $100 donation will provide.

The deeper we dig, the more likely we are to reach water.
The deeper we dig, the more likely we are to find a valuable artifact.
And that artifact might be you.

Are You willing to Dig? 
Home Depot is having a sale on shovels.



Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Feeding the Baby Ducklings for Maiden Voyages of their Own

"Consider the trees which allow the birds to perch, and fly away,without either inviting them to stay, or desiring them never to depart. If your heart can be like this, you will be nearer to the way." ~Zen Buddhist Teaching


In the early springtime, before the first crocus has even sprung, My Husband Terry begins his weekend pilgrimage to Worton Creek Marina, to begin preparing the boat for it's maiden springtime voyage. After the tinkering and tending to is through, it's time for our first spring time excursion, our Family Dog leading the way. We've made this same journey since our children were toddlers, but now they are teenagers, not always as eager for family adventures, as we. But, they scurry about the deck, the seasoned mates that they are, awaiting their more than able Captain's guidance, and we motor off to our destination, ready for whatever the Chesapeake has to offer this young spring day.

The air is Crisp with the fragrance of Old Bay Seasoning and Steamed Blue-Claw crabs as we pull into the slip at the Crab Claw Restaurant in St. Michael's, Maryland, a favorite port of call. It's leisurely Chesapeake dining at its finest; white paper lined picnic tables with personal paper towel dispensers and wet naps galore; A pitcher of beer and you're well prepared to sit back and watch the boats go by as you pick crabs, and feed the baby ducklings who eagerly await your seasonal arrival.

They're not at all shy, and we happen to be here just as the the mother begins her first lesson of the day: panhandling 101.
Lesson 1: Waddle by and look cute.
She's brought them ashore and they follow her along the edge of the dock where the tables are, ready to receive crackers and bits of crab from folks like us who can't resist. When they've had their fill, it's time for
Lesson 2: Jumping from the dock into the water below.
Without warning, mom lifts off and changes local. The ducklings protest, "cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep!" They pace back and forth, unsure of what to do next, awaiting her able guidance. The mother dips the lower half of her beak in the water and flicks it up towards the ducklings suggesting it's their turn. We all wait with bated breath. It's a good four feet down, and they're all but a few ounces of fluff. They pace and cry some more. She continues to encourage, despite their campaign, gradually getting a little farther away. It's more suspenseful than any soap opera I've seen. The chirping subsides and the ducklings resign, one by one and take their own personal plunge. Everyone sighs.
Lesson 3: Moving On.
Although there is a guaranteed meal here, you must learn to fend for yourselves, to find food of your own.

There are plenty more lessons to be learned before they take a maiden voyage of their own; lots of tinkering and tending to, before they become seasoned mates. But their Captain is able and certain of their potential for independence. Deep down she knows that soon they'll want to stray without her encouragement. Soon they'll be less eager for family adventures, less dependent on parental lessons and more eager to take personal plunges of their own. Personal plunges outside of Saint Michaels;outside of the security of what The Crab Claw can provide: lessons that only the great body of the Chesapeake Bay can teach.
Despite our Campaign,
One young Spring Day they'll motor off to their own destinations, seasoned now and ready for whatever the Chesapeake Bay has to offer,
Prepared to fend for themselves, to find food of their own.

"Today, I am amazed at the things my children have done, and their wide range of interests. They are all living their lives and not the ones I would have planned for them. But I have learned that their lives are theirs, not mine, and in living their own lives, they have given me experience and an education I would never have had if I had been fool enough to make them do what I thought they should do." 
~Bernie Siegal

Related Post:
Rubber Ducky Book Bags and Earth Shoes

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Seeds of Rebirth and Possibilty in the Unexpected

"Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there" ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

I really love a nice walk in the woods. I love to hike the nearby trails with my dog Captain leading the way. Captain is a Vizsla, a Hungarian Pointer. They are highly spirited, and highly affectionate dogs; curious and comical. He needs lots and lots of exercise, and considering the joy he so eagerly provides, It's the least we can do. In the process, he gets me the exercise I need and invariably leads me to the inspiration, peace and connection that can only be found in the great outdoors.

One trail we like to walk, lies right behind a neighborhood, and recently, as we followed the trail along, I noticed something. What I noticed was that presumably, the neighboring homeowners had cleaned up their yard waste and left it in piles in the woods; all perfectly compostable, giving back to the earth, what the earth had originally provided, so that The Master Recycler can use it to create something more. It's a wonderfully creative earth we inhabit, indeed.
One particular pile of refuse caught my eye. There, growing, in the composting matter, were the most beautiful pansies I had ever seen. Deep, deep purple, and as large as daisies. Having grown pansies of our own before, I had learned that they are typically considered annuals but under the right conditions, they often reseed and return the following year. We were blessed to have them return for nearly seven years.

The wind must have taken the seeds and gently placed them nearby, causing them to return every year since the conditions were right.

I wonder if the homeowners had any indication of what they were throwing away, or the potential their "useless" yard waste actually had to offer the right conditions for the re-birth of those beautiful pansies.

Seeds of rebirth are always present, although we may be unaware. Nature is constantly renewing itself all around us; it is a continual recycling process; repairing and renewing, hybridizing and healing itself, dying and resurrecting.

I considered removing those gorgeous, unexpected pansies and taking them home with me, but decided that maybe, since the conditions were obviously right, that they were meant to be there, and if I let them remain, they might reseed and populate, and a more beautiful forest trail it might become. It also left open the possibility of someone else discovering them, and appreciating their unexpected blessing.

The possibilities inherent in the unexpected are often the greatest blessings of all.
One man's refuse, is another man's unexpected treasure.

"Gardens always mean something else. Man absolutely uses one thing to say another." -Robert Harbison, Eccentric Spaces, 1977

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Potential to Sprout and The Empty Truth

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

-St Francis of Assisi

I have a great love of children's literature. Familiar or not, dog-eared or brand-new, opening a picture book takes me back to my childhood. When I was in first grade, I had a hard time learning to read. It might have had something to do with my "hyperactive nature." My Teacher, Mrs. Slike, a seasoned educator, suggested to my parents that we order the Weekly Reader, so that I'd look forward to receiving a new hardcover book in the mail each month, and learning to read would become a positive thing. Mrs. Slike was right. I have vivid memories of the box with the Weekly Reader logo arriving in my mailbox , and the excitement of tearing it open, and seeing the title. As the 6th of seven children, the time I spent on my mother's lap reading was precious. My mother loves to read, and her shelves were filled with books of all varieties. My shelves today are no different.

The headmaster of my daughter's school is also very fond of children's literature. One of the titles he shared with me is The Empty Pot, by Demi.
It is the story of a Chinese Emperor who, having no successor to his throne, decides to choose one from the children of the village. Since he loves to cultivate and enjoy flowers of all kinds, he gives each child a seed, and says that whoever can "show me their best" will become his successor. Ping, a prodigy of sorts in cultivating living things eagerly goes to get his seed,
and with great care plants it in the best of soils, certain that his experience successfully cultivating plants will earn him the throne.
He gives it the best conditions: light, fertile soil, water, attention and patience
but his seed never sprouts.
He is disappointed and ashamed, certain that the other children will gloat over his failure.
When the time comes to present the flower pots to the emperor, Ping, with his father's encouragement, having done his best, presents the empty pot. Among all of the other children, who have grown equally big and beautiful flowers, Ping, taunted by them, presents his empty pot to the emperor, who smiles and presents him as heir to his throne. For all of the seeds he had given the children were "duds." Not one of them had the potential to sprout. Ping, for his honesty and great courage in presenting the "empty truth" earns the emperor's respect.


Overcoming my own difficulty reading enhanced my "potential to sprout".


Exposure to the "right conditions"
like
teachers who care; who believe in a child's potential,
parents who model and encourage,
and lots of opportunities to "show our best"
produce
students like Ping
who too have the potential to
"cultivate living things"
and these
"living things"
when given the "right conditions"
are more likely to
"show you their best"
And there is no better way to reward a teacher or parent,
then to present them with an"empty pot."
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
-John Quincy Adams

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kids Say the Darndest Things, and So Do Grandmas


"If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

I'm Italian, so I'm passionate about food:

Passionate about pasta, passionate about bread, wine, and veal.

As we traveled the rolling lavender hills of Italy,

reminders were everywhere.

I mused:

Now I know why I like scarves, and Bergamot and inspired design,
Citrus, and Leather,
boots and shoes of all kinds!
Italians are passionate about life in general.
As you stroll the piazzas it's clear;
sauntering arm in arm, lingering pauses at the espresso bar;
Life is for living, and they do it with flair.
I thanked my parents for making me Italian.

Our Ancestors are in our bones; I'm sure of it.
I could feel it as I wandered the streets of Castel Disangro Italy, imagining my ancestors resting on the stoop cleaning green beans they had harvested earlier that day.
I could smell their lavender scented linens clipped firmly to the clotheslines, lyrically rising and falling with the music of the mountain breeze.

There is so much we can learn from our ancestors,
but dually as much we can learn from our offspring.
I'm routinely humbled by them, but with a deep sense of inner pride.
Of course their ancestors are in their bones; and when they blend that with their own experience and observations, they leave me both awe struck, and awe inspired.

Case in point:
In Pennsylvania right now, it's Baby Cow season.
Baby "Oreo Cow" season,
Baby "How-Now Brown-Cow season
I've never seen a Baby cow,(alright a calf, alright potential veal) up close, but I want to.
It doesn't matter what kind of animal it is, observing the baby ones just makes me smile.
We enjoy seeing them on the way to my daughter Avery's school,
and I wonder aloud if they frolic
like puppies and kittens do.

Flash forward:
Friday evening, having dinner at an Italian restaurant. My 15 year old Daughter Lindsey gently reminds me, as the waitress delivers my Veal Piccata, why veal is so tender.
Flashback to 1990:
I am reading Diet for a New America, my first reminder that veal comes from baby cows who are kept in cages no bigger than they are, and thus, have a very limited existence before they turn into Veal Piccata.
Holy, Canole!
Our Ancestors are in our Bones, and they'll remain there,
even if I decide to learn from my offspring, and refrain from ordering veal.

As we return home that evening, Avery, my 13 year old early riser, suggests that maybe I should consider going to bed earlier to combat my recent insomnia problem. "Then," she says," you can wake up earlier, and you won't be so tired in the morning."
I decide to take her advice, and some Advil PM. I did wake up earlier. I did feel better. I made cinnamon rolls to send by beloveds, Terrence, Lindsey and Avery off to school, cleaned out the kitchen cabinets and did three loads of laundry before 8:30 a.m.
Kids do say the darndest things.

Terrence, our 17 year old recently taught me something about my motives. He just got his license, and I was a little tentative about letting him drive right away. Of course, with his newly acquired ticket to freedom, he was eager to get out there and drive alone; eager, like all 17 year olds with a junior license, to get in the car, turn the radio on full blast, and go somewhere. He wanted to drive to school the very next day.
"Mom," he says, I have my license, so I'm legally allowed to drive. When you got your license, you wanted to drive, right? Isn't that why you get a license?" I do remember, My own father, after training 5 other drivers before me, sending me out to pick up potato chips and ice cream, until he felt I had enough local driving experience.
As Elaine Bennis, of Seinfeld would say,
"I'm speechless. I have no speech."

Day two of license, I am at my meditation class. After discussing the techniques we'll be working on, we settle in, begin our breathing, and feel the way the air moves through the nose and into the lungs, enlarging the chest cavity, then feeling it empty. We do this again and again, until, eventually, thoughts creep in. You notice your thoughts, but don't judge them, and redirect your attention to your breath. This goes on for about twenty minutes, and when we bring our attention back to the room, and to our surroundings, we discuss, as a group, what challenges we faced as we sat with ourselves.
We talked about what thoughts came up, and when it was my turn I confessed that I had hard time settling my mind, and that the thoughts that were coming up were centered around Terrence driving, and his imminently leaving for college the following year. Avery, our youngest had reminded me that the year Terrence goes away to college is the same year that we agreed to let Lindsey board at her nearby high school.
What I begin to realize, as soon as I speak it, is that my anxious thoughts have a feeling-tone of clinging. Knowing what's imminent is reminder that time indeed marches on, whether your mother likes it or not.
Acknowledging this, I send Terrence out for Potato Chips and Ice cream.
He drives to school every day now.
If he's anything like me, a trial and error learner,
there may be a fender bender in his future,
but as my Grandma Jo-Jo always said when we made a mistake,
"Live and Learn."

Kids Say the Darndest things
and So do Grandmas.

" I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way."
Whitney Houston, The Greatest Love of All

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Right Intention+Agape=RightWords



"It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing.It is not how much we give,but how much love we put in the giving."

~ Mother Teresa

 Sometimes, helping someone out of a bad situation, or a bad mindset can be difficult; difficult because we don't have the right words, or the right approach, even though we have the right intention.

 You can go in like a bull in a china shop;

I've tried that, but wouldn't recommend it;

because when a bull enters a china shop, he's got to get out somehow.

Oh he didn't go in there with the intention of knocking down the china.

 

The china shop just happened to be in the middle of his path,

On the way to a certain heifer he'd like to know better.

 

Although the road to heaven is paved with good intentions, there are roads with potholes and there are roads blessedly without.

 Unfortunately, there's no GPS alive which will steer you clear of the pot-hole ridden ones.

Man made GPS, that is.

There is, however a certain type of GPS that's better equipped-

Internal GPS:

a combination of intuition and experience that points us in the right direction.

 But How do you  locate it?

 Riding in the car, I was contemplating that very thing when considering how to approach the "situation of the moment". Being a passenger at the time, I looked up to notice the car in front of us with a license plate which read: AGAPE 1. I had a general idea what the Word meant. I knew it had to do with Love. I think I had an LED moment. So I was off to the dictionary, as soon as I got home, and I had my answer. The simple definition of the word Agape (AH-GAH-PAY) is love, but Love, is not always simple. It is one of several Greek words which translates into Love. Webster defines the simple word love, in 9 different entries. Let's look at a few.

When used as a noun:

1 a (1): strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties

4 a: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another:

(1): the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2): brotherly concern for others

When used as a Verb:

1: to hold dear

4: to thrive in

The English word Agape (A-GAPE) is defined this way:

As an adjective:

Gaping

 as with wonderexpectation, or eager attention.

Open wide

~(Christianity) the love of God or Christ for mankind, or the love of others

 Spiritual love.

One word, but many different parts of speech; many incarnations.

Love relates to Persons, places and things.

Love is in Actions, Love is descriptive.

When our intention is to help, arising out of a "strong affection or kinship", in "unselfish, benevolent (expressing kindness and altruism) concern for the good of another" then we're on the right path. When we direct that desire to help towards those we "hold dear" in order that they thrive, we are on the right path.

 And finally, when we approach the loved one with "wonder and eager attention" (presence) we become "open wide,” and we receive direction, from God and from others, which is spiritual love. We are Inspired, or In-spirit, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit is at hand.

 

"Genuine love is not love that never disappoints us,

But love that always stretches us and challenges us

      To become a better human being."

                                                     -John Izzo                                                  

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Proactive, Therapeutic Mix


"So what do we do? Anything - something. So long as we don't just sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late."

Lee Iacocca,
Former Chairman of Chrysler Corporation

As a student of Bodywork, I enjoy learning a multitude of techniques and combining them into a therapeutic mix for the benefit of the client. The more of these "modalities" I have in my bag of tricks, the better. One of methods I  rely on most is Acupressure. Based on acupuncture theory, Shiatsu  and other Traditional Chinese Medicine branches,  it addresses distress inside the body by applying pressure to various "points" on the outside of the body, which are connected to meridians, or energy centers within. Treating these "points" unclogs the blockage of energy flow through the meridians.

 I consider it a first line of defense.


 It's proactive, where reaching for the Motrin bottle is reactive.

Victor Frankl coined the word "proactive" in  Man's Search for Meaning : "to take responsibility for one's life rather than looking for causes in outside circumstances, or other people."  He formed this theory after losing his wife, father and family to the Nazi concentration camps. He believed that even in  the vilest of circumstances, meaning can be found, and even created.

Steven Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People defines being proactive as "acting before a situation becomes a source of confrontation, or crisis."

When it becomes a crisis, Then It's time for the Motrin.

As a student of Bodywork, I've learned a lot about the body, but I've also learned a lot about myself and others, and that the mind and body are truly are one:
 distress in the mind=distress in the body.

But
Anything proactive we do for one effects the other.

Work on both? 
A Therapeutic mix. 
For you are your own client,
And you must have a multitude of techniques in your bag of tricks.
Tricks for the health of the  Body.
Tricks for the health of the Mind.
Tricks to unclog the blockages which keep your mind from remembering you have a body.
Just like acupressure, you won't get results unless you use them regularly,
and when we do, we can take "responsibility for our lives, rather than looking for causes in outside circumstances, or other people. "
If it was possible to do it in a concentration camp, then surely we can put some pressure
in our own lives.  When we do, it invariably travels the meridians between you and I, unclogging the blockages of energy between us.

And anything proactive we do for one, effects the other.

“It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.”

-Confucius

Monday, May 5, 2008

Only You Can Choose your Direction (You and Juan Valdez)


"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
-Victor Frankl

I've always had a hard time getting up in the morning.
I never feel thoroughly rested, and I just don't seem to have any "Get up and Go".
 But I have a Dog.
A Dog who needs to get up and "go".
So I must.

Generally,when we address the stairs,
my pace is much more lumbering than his, regardless if one or both of us had arisen during the night to "use the facilities".
But down we go, nonetheless,
through the foyer,
through the kitchen,
and address the door which leads to the garage.

 I open the screen door, and lift my finger to the button;
he's already lying down like a sphinx at the garage door, awaiting its elevation.
I hit the button, and as soon as the door begins to rise,
 he wedges himself underneath at brake-neck speed,
certain there's something just on the other side of the door to chase away. 

He's seen squirrels there before, so he's at the ready; 
he races out across the driveway, and into the side yard,
does a few laps, and finds the perfect spot for release,
but he's still at the ready.

Following this morning ritual, he comes back in for a little breakfast,
whilst I address the coffee mug, awaiting the elevation it has in store for me.
After we get the kids off to school, It's time for our walk, Captain's and Mine.
 I prepare myself for leaving, as my husband would say,
by "keeping the laundry train going".
He's right.
Once I get the laundry train going, it gathers momentum, and there's no stopping it.
 Not necessarily folded, mind you, but done.
This is the closest I get to multi-tasking:

Doing the laundry at the same time as I walk the dog.
The only one actually walking, though, is me.

This time, the garage door is already open,
 and as we walk to the car, 
he always stops. 
Always. 

He stops, and he breathes, and he feels the sun on his face. 
He twitches his nose, allowing the scents of his own back yard to remind him that he's home.

By this point, Juan Valdez has brought about his desired effect, so I'm ready to hop in the car and Go.
 But thank God for Captain. 
And thank God for my interest in Animal Behavior. 

Because, the combination of these two gratitudes allows me to learn from this humble four- legged, how to greet my day.

He knows I enjoy observing him, so he uses his behavior as an opportunity to teach me a few things about living;
about how to go about living.

There are two ways to address your day, he conveys:
You can wedge yourself out the door anxious to chase away what might be on the other side,
or
You can pause,
 breathe,
feel the sun on your face,
and allow the scents of your own backyard to remind you that you are home.

You are not in the car at that moment.
You are not at work.
You are not walking in the Park.
You are Home.

When I choose to pause and breathe, to greet my Day, My Day is much better.
When I wedge myself under the door at brake-neck speed,
anxious to chase away what's on the other side, 
I'm off to an anxious start.
And once that train's-a-rollin', it gathers momentum
And there's no stopping it.


So, We get up and go, each morning, My dog Captain and I,
and each day he shows me my choices.

He's the Captain of his own Destiny, and So am I.

So too, are You.

"The greatest discovery of our generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. As you think, so shall you be."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Caricature of a Better Coach


"There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are also others, who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into a sun."
-Pablo Picasso

One of my favorite parts of going to Disney World is Getting our kids caricatures done. Having gone to various theme parks through the years in fact, we've acquired quite a few. It's fun to see the different artist's perspectives and to see them change through the years. Some of them are Good incarnations of my kids personalities, but some are even Better.We've even subjected our pets to the artist's pen. Looking at the collection on the wall always makes me smile, and to say I cherish them would be an understatement.

A good caricature artist must of course have a keen eye. He must be observant of word and deed and and have the visual prowess to exaggerate it all, creating an entertaining, but not offensive keepsake. He's also got to be confident enough to convey his perceptions with ease as bystanders look over his shoulder to enjoy the fun. The Better Ones Don't sketch it in Pencil, then outline in Pen. They Draw it with Pen right from the Get-Go. It's because they're experienced, and they've learned from experience, and that's what makes their work so impressive. Once the ink's on the page, It's indelible, so they're very purposeful with every stroke.
There aren't any erasers on the pencil and pastel tray.

I think being a caricaturist is a lot like being a mentor or a coach.
It's all about perspective.
Of course there are good coaches and there are better coaches.

I think the better ones have a keen eye:
An eye for what a player can bring to the team. An eye for what that player can gain from it.

The better ones are observant:
They notice what gets results and what doesn't. They notice what defeat can do to a child, and they notice teachable moments.

The better ones have visual prowess:
They can see that focusing on a player's strengths rather than his weaknesses enhances his esteem. They can visualize his strengths trumping his weaknesses.

The better ones know that sport is ultimately for the entertainment of the players and the spectators, and that the memory, as such, should be the most valuable keepsake he takes away, whether he takes it to the college playing field or to his scrapbooks.

The better ones are confident:
They're confident because they've played the sport themselves, and they've been blessed to be coached by Better coaches themselves--coaches who can convey their direction with ease, whose aims are to improve, and to overcome, to learn, and to grow, not necessarily to Win.

Both Good Coaches and Better Coaches can Win Games. Both Can Lose.
But it's the Better ones Who make a Difference.
It's the Better Ones who Know it's an art form-An indelible Art Form
An Art form that takes Learning.
An Art Form That takes Practice.
An Art form that takes a village

And to say I cherish them would be an understatement.

"People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel."
-Maya Angelou

Friday, May 2, 2008

You've Got To Play to Win

Have you ever dreamed about winning the lottery? About what you'd do if you suddenly acquired an inordinate amount of money? I've seen interviews with multi-million dollar lottery winners, and most of them are in shock, dumbfounded at the fact that they've beaten the odds.

But, you've got to play to win.

I've observed my dog Captain in the same position. When we go hiking, He goes out with the intention of finding a souvenir of some sort. Generally, it's a stick or branch of some kind; and often it's much larger than he is. But that doesn't stop him from running with it or trying to hop in the car with it. Recently, he found a red rubber dog bone on one of our adventures. He came bounding out of the woods, neck upright, trotting in the most poetic fashion, as if to say "Can you believe it? I went out looking for a stick, but look what I found instead!" Never have I seen such Joy. Such unbelievable pride. To just observe this joy doubles my own. When he greets you after an absence, he makes sure he has something to present to you, and more often than not, He prances out with the red rubber bone and the unmistakable dance of "Remember what I found? Can you believe it? Can you believe it?"

If you haven't noticed, I have a great deal of respect for our animal compatriots. A great deal.
For their outlook, their overall Being just wreaks of faith. Just wreaks of "Seek and you shall find". Just wreaks of "Be still and Know that I am." A trait us two-leggeds often have trouble allowing, even though affirmative examples abound. And odds are beaten all of the time.

But You've Got to Play to win.

Faith is different from proof; the latter is human, the former is a gift from God.
Blaise Pascal