Monthly Archives: August 2009
It might be due to my obsession with cakes lately; decorating cakes, studying cakes, mixing cakes from scratch, perusing the baking isle at Ralph’s for new and interesting cake mixes, but it suddenly occurred to me that cake is really symbolic of life. First of all, there are all of the ingredients. The quality of the ingredients influences the quality of the cake so it is important to look for that special vanilla (especially if you are making a white cake and then you must use clear vanilla in order to maintain the integrity of the cake’s color). The flour should be unbleached because why not get as much nutrition out of the flower as possible and the sugar, finely sifted so the batter will not be clumpy and the eggs fresh, very fresh. The proper ingredients are the bases for the cake, but the blending of ingredients and the order in which they are blended is equally important.
Blending cannot be done too quickly or at a speed too high. The ingredients must fold together properly with the wet ingredients being blended first. There is chemistry involved and it always surprises me when science sneaks into my life because I never really studied science per say, yet it just keeps popping up in unexpected places.
At last, ta-da, the frosting, ahhh the fluffy, fluffy frosting, the sweetness, the topping that something extra that makes the cake cry out “Eat me!” Life should be sweet, and colorful and expressive and frosting is also useful for filling in the cracks of life. Relationships that expire, jobs that don’t pan out, and people suddenly absent from your life, frosting helps to fill in those gaps, those little cracks where the cake dips, having stuck a little bit to the pan and with a little frosting, they will never know that there are crevices underneath the surface. Presentation is everything, I like to say, and it does help with cakes as with other objects of life such as houses, and people. A well-presented cake, complete with flowers, decorative icing and a pleasing design, can be the “ahhh” factor needed for that satisfied smile to appear.
Life is full of lessons and cake decorating is too. There are little tricks one learns along the way, that make it a bit easier, such as freezing the cake for a bit before putting the final frosting on top of the crumb coat in order to provide a more workable surface, or putting the flowers in the freezer so they can “set.” There are the boarders, “shells” or “stars” that finish of the edge of the cake and connect it beautifully to its base and of course the fate accompli is the edible glitter, which does nothing but add beauty.
My life is like a cake, complete with trial and error, frosting-filled gaps and goodness inside and though it isn’t always picture-perfect, in its own way, it always tastes the way it is supposed to, and there is always plenty for everyone who wants to bring a plate, a fork and cut off a slice.
This little post is a freebie, in between my regular posts stemming from The Observation Deck. I woke up thinking of how grateful I am for my family and friends, my sweet dog Charlie, my home, my job, and the last few days of summer. I stumbled upon this gratitude dance while reading a blog and immediately decided to do the dance and pass it on. If we all woke up and did a gratitude dance before starting our day, wouldn’t we have a happy world? Well, at least we could have a happy workplace and a happy home. I am all about the positive having just purchased two new books for my kindergarteners: Fill A Bucket-A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children, and The Crayon Box That Talked, a book about tolerance and the importance of everyone’s contributions.
I am off to take sweet Charlie to get his teeth cleaned (yes, they do this for dogs to promote good health) and then to bake two cakes in preparation for tomorrow’s cake class. Tonight is the Hollywood Bowl with my Aunt June. See what I mean? I have so much to be grateful for! Look closely, you will find your own. Start a Gratitude List and create a new one each day.
What a coincidence that today’s card relates to music and how it can influence writing and the creative flow. My life is surrounded by music since my entire family is musically inclined and driven by various forces of music: Gary by the rhythm found in all things, Kimberly working at a recording studio and a fan of bands and singers, a singer herself, Nicole, budding guitarist with her first public performance in two days and her internship at a recording studio for the summer and Danielle, talented on so many instruments including her voice and using music to fuel her passion for dancing. Where do I fit in to this musical family? I appreciate music and love many genres of music. I love exploring new music, but I especially love the stories behind the music, behind the musicians and what motivates the musicians to create the music that we all love.
I decided to take the advice and listen to music while I write tonight and I must admit it is helpful in blocking out the household noises and wrapping me in a world consisting of my chair, the headphones and my laptop. I am currently listening to Granada Doaba, a compilation of local songs from musicians in Granda, Spain put together by an ethnomusicology student, Canyon Cody, on a Fulbright scholarship in Granda. It has flamenco and hip-hop flamenco. It is multicultural fusion and a collaboration of local artists. Finding a group of similar, motivated artists is a gift and offers an interesting peek into an alternate lifestyle.
Creative people (and who isn’t creative, really) need to find various forms of outlets for their creativity so it can exit the confines of the body and flow out into the world impacting others. I find it fascinating that The Rock Bottom Remainders band formed by writers Stephen King, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson allowed these writer/rockers to use another art as a creative form of expression. I admire these writers and am a big fan in particular, of Amy Tan and Barbara Kingsolver. I got a ticket to see Barbara Kingsolver speak at the Writer’s Guild in November and am so excited to hear her speak after reading so many of her books. So the world of music is related to speaking, which is related to characters speaking and thinking and living their lives in the books we read. My music is the words I hear dancing in my head and demanding to be let out onto the page to play for everyone.
The structure of writing compared to the structure of a building makes me think of some way to create a cozy place, with windows letting in light, revelations, doors to provide security and protectiveness, yet that can be swung open to provide opportunities, rooms to organize the space into an efficient living space, a roof to shelter and a sturdy foundation to keep me grounded. While creating this blog, this cozy home for my writing, I have the foundation of the blog format, the support of the Observation Deck to create windows from which to view and frame the outside world, my creativity serving as the doors to new opportunities and new viewpoints, and the separate blog entries serving as the rooms of my writing home.
I sit down each evening when the dinner dishes are done, the dog attended to, everyone settled into his or her evening activities, turn on the cooling fan blowing a breeze as I sit pondering the evening’s card at my writing desk. I read the accompanying description in the booklet, an idea pops into my head and my fingers fly across the keyboard. I dream of longer stories, of fascinating stories that people are unable or unwilling to put down, even for a moment. I fantasize about published writing and acceptance letters instead of dismissing emails, and the structure of the blog frames my writing and sells itself. I am self-published and satisfied to be beginning my adventure. Thankfully, writing is an activity that can last a lifetime and doesn’t depend on a youthful body, extreme amounts of energy or actually getting hired. It stems from a deeper passion burning within and exiting through my fingertips.
One of the most humbling experiences is being caught in a situation that requires asking for help for at first it feels foreign and slightly shameful to ask for help because we think, “I should be able to do this myself.” Then when a friend offers to help, to listen or to do a favor, the weight lifted is so immeasurable and the relief so true and genuine, that it makes asking for help in the future a little bit easier. By asking for help the giver gets to feel needed and important and the receiver feels connected to another human being. Just knowing that someone out there cares, is sometimes the boost one needs to move forward.
“Living the life of your dreams is a lot like sailing.
You pick your destination, hoist up your sail, make minor adjustments while the journey is underway, and let the wind do all the hard work.
In other words, imagine the end result, do what little you can, make minor adjustments while the journey is underway, and let me blow your mind.
Of course, there are also a few “don’ts.” Like don’t think that just because there’s magic in life you won’t have to hoist up your sails, or that doing so will instantly deliver you to your destination. Don’t assume that just because there isn’t wind one day it’s a “sign” that something is wrong, or that you won’t have it tomorrow. And, perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to pack your Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, and cupcakes.” -TUT A Note from the Universe
I have encountered recommendations for the art of visualization in so many arenas lately from emails from Oprah to Notes from the Universe and Daily Catalyst quotes. I am a woman on a mission, a mission to transform, to create, to become what I want to be. The act of visualizing success, of picturing every nuance of life as a successful writer, began when I created this blog. I set up my writing space and made the commitment to write for 15 minutes at the end of each day. It is an easier commitment to keep that sticking to a diet, or getting in a good cardio workout each day. I wonder why that is? Beginning at about the age of 5, I imagined myself a writer. It has just taken me a long time to sit down and get to work.
The one idea that makes sense to me, it to treat myself as kindly as I treat the children I teach. Teaching a developmentally appropriate curriculum, taking into consideration the needs of the child, their developmental readiness and their natural curiosity, is natural to me. If I treat myself the same way, understanding my need to develop naturally as a writer, to learn and to grow with nurturing and practice, I can have the patience I need to emerge from my learning state into a place where writing becomes my career.
I have moved forward from the days of putting everyone else’s needs before my own, from care giving to taking care of myself and from having no time left at the end of the day to sit for a moment and reflect to creating the time I need to fulfill my dream and my passion. That alone is a success, but I can picture more. I can picture writing published, books with my name as the author and the fulfillment I will have when I realized that hard work and determination can pay off.
disparate |ˈdispərit; diˈsparit|
essentially different in kind; not allowing comparison : they inhabit disparate worlds of thought.
• containing elements very different from one another : a culturally disparate country.
connection |kəˈnek sh ən| ( Brit. also connexion)
1 a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else
I have begun noticing how characters connect, how things in this life connect, how in fact, we are all connected in some small way. You know that theory of six degrees of separation, the one that supposes that we are all connected to each other, by at the most, six degrees? We can choose to believe that we are all connected or that we are all disconnected. I choose to believe the former. There have been too many instances of serendipity in my life lately, messages in the form of positive email reminders that the universe is basically there to support us if we let it. We often wonder why things happen the way that they do, not always for our ease or comfort, but perhaps for the better in the long run, perhaps there is guidance, or intervention or some bigger plan that we are only able to become aware of as we travel down our path.
My greatest joy is connecting. Connecting to family, friends, my students, their parents, and my community. Through these connections I have had some amazing experiences, the latest being my introduction and immersion into the art world, which has in turn, inspired my writing. Today was a visit to the LA Family Housing family shelter for the monthly tile painting class taught and chaperoned by my friend Karen and facilitated by her husband Barry. I planned fun activities for the children of the participants and was assisted by my adoptive moms Helen and Libby while my husband Gary engaged the block builders and took photos of their creations. We talked with the children, read stories, played with blocks, made sticker pictures and guided coloring, but the most important part was the talking, the connecting. Looking into the eyes of a child who might not have many opportunities to have one-to-one contact with a grown up who is there simply to listen without judgment and without expectation. An adult who can chuckle at the cuteness of a 3-year-old building with blocks, or admire the scribbling a child imagines to be a picture and takes pleasure in serving juice, pretzels and bananas, because we really connect through our senses, through our smiles and with the realization that we all really have more to share and more in common than our differences.
“Waiting is not a passive activity.”
~ Lynn Scheurell
Everyone possesses fear, whether it is the fear of a person, a situation or of possible scenarios. Fear is a basic human emotion steaming back to our early human survival skills when the fears were all real and survival was dependent on how we handled our encounter with fear. Now the fears are more abstract, but just as real. There is no animal chasing us and we don’t depend on our ancestors’ hunting and gathering skills for survival either, but modern fears, especially in this economic climate, exist in a very real form for many of us.
My fears stem back to my childhood, growing up with my sister, being raised by our mother, a single parent in the days when this was neither common nor popular. It started when we walked to school hearing the warnings of our mother playing in our head, “Don’t talk to strangers” when I felt so relieved just to make it the two blocks to school safely, not encountering any of the dreaded strangers on my way. The underlying fear of not having “enough” permeated my childhood. Clothes were most often hand-me-downs from friends of the family, lessons in the arts were for other children in my class and cultural trips to museums were rare. The treasured musical theater matinees were the escape we longed for, and the recorded soundtrack albums worn from the multitude of listening, evoking the memories of the actors on the stage at the theater in the round performances we saw at a local theater.
As I grew up, the fears became more typical, hoping for healthy babies, the ability to care for them, provide for them and do a good job raising successful children. These fears were the kind that inspired hard work and diligent research in order to become a good parent and it became a full-time job to raise children and maintain the house in addition to the other full-time job, the one that paid the bills. Then came the fears of reclaiming the self I had shut up for so long and the question of who I would become once my job of raising children was completed (for the time being). The question loomed in the dark corners, punctuated by little annoyances; who was I, and was our relationship still there under the surface of years of distraction?
Today the fears are more terrifying and we don’t know where this road will take us. The anonymous frustration of being caught in the complications of a society dependent for years on credit formulas and loans requiring a specialist’s degree for understanding. A simple phone call for an explanation or question is fed to automated menus and contact with a real person is rare. The trained phone staff read from scripts and is not entrusted with actual information or knowledge but instead, trained to divert calls from the few who know. The secret knowledge and the solutions are hidden away in the offices of the people who rest on the security of their position of the knowledge and for those of us stranded here, the uncertain future remains our fear.