How do we assess our place in the world? New Year’s Questions

Self series

Self series

I grew up in the U.S. school system which pretty much treated us like laboratory rats. We were measured, weighed, tested, assessed and compared from the time I was in kindergarten on.
My report cards kept reflecting that I was “unlike” other students. This presentation of anomaly was particularly problematic in the pool of acceptability.
I was slow to learn to read. Having to stay in at recess and after school until I caught up with the other third graders was humiliating. With hindsight I see what a dedicated, kind and disciplined teacher I had the luck to experience.
By grade eight I was reading at first year university level. We were streamed in grade nine after an appropriately named “battery” of tests. Separated from all of the lower cohorts, I was grouped with only those whose goal was university. In fact, over 80% of those I attended middle school and high school with went on to get a graduate degree as did I.
In grade 12 I knew exactly what position I held in the 368 students who graduated that year. We had access to the information at any time. I fought tooth and nail for position 35 and had aspirations for position 30. My 25 percentile ability in math held me back. Basically, I was informed in curtained language that I was a math idiot.
In grade 11 I and my other “geekdom” dwellers who had scored in the top 95% of all high school students in the United States for academic ability were gathered to sit in chairs in a row on the gym floor. Over 1,000 students were ushered in to look down on us. The honor was usually for the jocks. Once a month the entire school for forcefully herded down to cheer at them. Now it was our turn. There was NO enthusiasm on either side. We felt marked out like trapped animals and they felt hostile at worse and totally bored with our presence at best.
What has the experience left me with? A competitive nature even with myself.
Probably, this is one of the reasons even though I received three academic degrees by the time I was 22 years of age, that I love multi-media art. I work alone. I work without an audience. I work without words. My work is strange, unique and incomparable. What a blessing.

self portrait, too many thoughts, visions

self portrait, too many thoughts, visions

New Year’s Resolution kept by what percent of the population?

Couple in inner city park $5 fridge magnet

Couple in inner city park $5 fridge magnet

According to Ross Freake in today’s Courier, only 28% of people keep their new year’s resolutions. My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to be more mindful of my use of time.

$5 mdf fridge magnet, tropical flowers

$5 mdf fridge magnet, tropical flowers

Old patterns are easy. Like trenches down a hill side, the water of time runs in those dug out places that practice has created. Did it work? Is it the best use of my time? Is it moving me toward my goals? These are questions I have looked at all morning.

magnet collection on cookie sheet, each for sale by artist

magnet collection on cookie sheet, each for sale by artist

My body wants to leap up and begin to do that which the mind has trained it to do, but I resisted and sat for hours this morning drawing up a calendar. Most of the morning passed in examining last year and looking toward next year. What is it I want? What can I do to move toward that which I want?

Cheerful flowers with jewels, $10

Cheerful flowers with jewels, $10

Calendar. Blocking out time. Watching the mind as it pulls like a four year old on one’s hands to become engaged in ceaseless and senseless activity.

Promoting my classes is a priority and allowing others to view my work for sale is right up there as well.

So:

Jan 10th, Saturday 10 am to 2 pm

A Gift of Yourself: Creating a Chapbook

Make a stunning hand made book of images, pictures, poems

Adult and Teen, $50

$5 comic fridge magnet

$5 comic fridge magnet

Jan 17th, Saturday 10  to 2 pm

Making Scrapbook Cards

Ages 11-16, $50

$5, mdf magnet StarFire

$5, mdf magnet StarFire

Jan 24, 10-1pm

Poetry for the Fun of It

Explore your creative side in a relaxed, supportive atmosphere

Ages 14-17

Pink nude standing, heart jewel earrings

Pink nude standing, heart jewel earrings

Jan 26 – March 9 Term Class

The Craft of Creative Writing

Explore Blog writing, creative non-fiction, creative fiction

with support and guidance.

UBC Continuing Studies

http://www.ubc.ca/okanagan/continuing studies

250-807-8177

hand painted nude magnet $5

hand painted nude magnet $5

Jan 31, 10-2 pm

Writing Colorful Poetry

Use your love of color to inspire beautiful poetry

Adults and teens, $50

$10 hand painted fridge magnet, blue waves

$10 hand painted fridge magnet, blue waves

Boxing day sales, Winter Storms and Small Blessings

Playground car stuck in snow

Playground car stuck in snow

Staff lined up in the aisles. We were ambushed at every turn. “How are you making out,” the sales clerk in appliances asked. “Oh, not here!” I replied. He blinked awake from his bored haze and said, “What?”

“We aren’t making out here. We are just looking at fridges.” Ours had died after a valiant 10 year life. How could we complain when we had paid less than $200 for a full sized one. At any rate, we had the new to us auction vehicle which has a cracked head and has no heat. It is a refrigerator that we can drive around. The snow and below 20 weather has allowed us to use the uninsulated pantry area as a fridge and the table purchased for sitting in the sun as the freezer.

Winter walk in Sutherland Park

Winter walk in Sutherland Park

We have only to remove the carcass of the dead fridge from our deck… clear the deck and then we can view more clearly the collapsed tent broken down under snow that was meant to protect our piles of wood.

The stores were almost empty. Costco was as deserted as I have ever seen it. Home Depot was ornamental with the orange aproned people clearly visible in every department. Only a very few potential consumers were moving through the aisles.

Snow on Rowan Berries

Snow on Rowan Berries

The only place with any traffic at all was Future Shop. Many were coming out empty handed. The hoodie with asymmetrical abstract design crowd seemed loose, casual and after some fun. They probably scooped up games and distractions.

The lower mainland will be slammed again with winter storms. Oh David Suzuki, you were right. We are cursed when Victoria, B.C. has the deepest snowfall of any city in all of CANADA. Now if Yellow Knife has hybiscus we know the new age or end times or revision-vision time has come.

from Cedar Creek, the lake with snow clouds

from Cedar Creek, the lake with snow clouds

We sit in our small house and enjoy movies. Our neighbour’s similarly sized house has been declared by some potential buyers to be, “Too small to live in.”

Cameron cooked an amazing meal. I am really enjoying shovelling the sidewalk. Both of my adult children have phoned me with messages of love. My step-father is still amazing and amusing. My brother has not died of cancer this year but has beaten it. I have wonderful friends. This is a big house that contains worlds of possibilities and happiness. Revise that title. The blessings are NOT small at all.

Cameron's idea of Christmas lights

Cameron put up christmas lights

Our Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree with Uplight

Our Christmas Tree with Uplight

The man who cooked all day is ready to eat

The man who cooked all day is ready to eat

Creating a Chapbook: poetry and art class at Kelowna’s Rotary Centre

After reading through the last five weeks of newspapers, taking them out back for recyling, seeing that the walkway to the alley is obstructed by snow and shoveling for over an hour, I am ready to do what I set out to do today. Reading the news for weeks in one sitting is certainly a way to see what the “manipulators” want us to believe about the world. So many of the predicted catastrophes do not appear. Sales of Canadian goods over Christmas are up 5%, we are not having another election, the pine beetle is getting its existence frozen out of pine trees and the world has greeted the shoe throwing incident with humour and not horror.

Distractions of necessities. As I move through my day, I ask, ” Are my actions a mindful attention to that which has to be done to maintain a household, or am I just following my eyes?” I guess not being able to walk around the house freely would be seen as a call to action.

My intention was to begin to publicize my classes:

The first  Saturday workshop, A GIFT OF YOURSELF,

January 10th

421 Cawston Avenue in the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

$50 and runs from 10 am until 2 pm with all of the decorative papers, etc. supplied.

for adults and teens.

Many people have snippets of writing; journals, poetry, short narratives. These can be arranged with either photographs or with art work to create a beautiful hand-made book. A GIFT OF YOURSELF is ideal for grandmothers to give to grandchildren, for teens to give to friends or family or for a husband to give to his wife.

It certainly is a good fit with the transition away from mindless spending and consumerism and thinking more about sharing.

For information, give me a call at the Rotary Centre 250-763-4269. Also, I am available for one on one tutorials for $45 for two hours.

Tomorrow, I will have a seven minute appearance at the Okanagan Institute to just briefly present a “narrative” about Buddhist, spiritual practice. Both Stan Rule and Ross Freake has beautiful columns in yesterday’s newspaper which reverberate with Buddhist spiritualism. We do have a sanga around us, if we have eyes and ears to experience its presence.

Amusingly, all the while I was shoveling snow my busy, obsessive mind kept saying, “Hurry up and finish so you can go to the gym and work out.” HA! After nearly two hours of shovelling the concept disappeared.

Autumn harvest basking in sun

Autumn harvest basking in sun

Trevisan Traces of Memory Art: Severe Winter, Kelowna

The castle becomes an art gallery

The castle becomes an art gallery

My work at Traces of Memory

My work at Traces of Memory

While four pieces of my art are enjoying the relative warmth of Ferrar, Italy, I am here scraping the ice off of the sidewalk. However, the brilliant, clean sunlight coming in the windows and doors is sending visions of being able to move to Edmonton into my brain. I can live with the -27 degrees, I tell myself. I can live with the sun and moon reflecting off of snow. The jewel like ground holds beauty in every crevice.

blue skies

blue skies

What is soul destroying is gray, gray skies, gray air, gray vistas. The interior of houses feeling like caves and energy as well as optimism sinking into the winter gray bog of despair.

I have a 5 by 7 foot image that I am preparing for a furniture store in town. Having sent the Christmas presents off and most of the cards I can now concentrate on my art. The next step is to complete this work and then I can begin to publicize my classes with renewed vigor.  Teaching is such a joy for me. Learning as much from my students as I manage to teach, is the usual result. So often a question sends me into a new direction. The wall is a door.

Yesterday we had some bad luck or results from steps not taken, however one wants to phrase it. The “new” car needs the head gasket replaced and the cost was estimated at $2,500. We can’t manage that. Then the refrigerator died, shortly after the protective tent over the construction wood collapsed and broke.

At least all three are out of the way. We almost had four because we forgot to turn the heat back on after we were listening for the refrigerator to breathe. The house was 52 this morning but luckily no pipes burst.

Trevisan "Traces of Memory"

Trevisan

Lack of focus is often the biggest devil in our lives. I have made so many mistakes from simply not paying attention. Sunday in our Dharma group we were reading Ken Macleod’s differentiation of awareness and mindfulness… but I had trouble keeping my mind on it.

So often the careful, structural analysis of things which are scientific sounding have no reverberation for me. I intuit. I feel. I have a gut response, or a flash. Breaking things down into steps, mincing logical discussions just feels like a weight and confuse me. I am mindful enough to watch this process in myself and aware enough to know how much others seem to seek structure to give them control over ideas.

The images of Trevisan that Paola sent through are wonderful. If only my art could talk!

My pieces are on the left

My pieces are on the left

Traces of Memory Show in Ferrar, Italy

Traces of Memory Show in Ferrar, Italy

Cameron stretched the new canvas for me and put on the hardware. I cleaned up his studio for him this morning. What one finds difficult, the other find simple. Having a team is a strong position.

Large New image, Red pyramids

Large New image, Red pyramids

Don’t be afraid of the severe winter in Kelowna. The sky is fantastic with its 100 shades of blue. Step out into it. Take the hand of your partner/love and enjoy what is.

Making Money from your Blog

Wowee is my head spinning. Getting Christmas cards made for people, mailed after taking the time to put a personal note in them, getting ready for the big sale at the Rotary Centre on December 13th from 10 until 4 pm and making sure all Christmas presents are sent off in time is busy enough. After reading three marketing books I see that I should be doing three months worth of work on my web site just to bring it up to snuffles.

So much to learn about marketing. I have begun to accept invitations that are kindly extended to me. So much of my life has been about working furiously hard on something that will benefit others, then withdrawing. “My Script” has been to prove that I am not selfish. And guess what, In If the Buddha Were Stuck that I just finished reading, the Buddhist psychotherapist points out that by attaching to not being a certain way, we attach to being a certain way. Therefore to take action either because you wish to prove that you are NOT selfish or to BE selfish are both ways of keeping the concept in your life.

In addition, I have joined many groups on Facebook that are networking possibilities. One amazing email came to me from an Oregon artist who is sitting in the Castle in Ferrar, Italy looking at the four pieces of my art work that have been put up for display. I can’t be there, but through the internet, I have met a woman from my state of birth who is in attendance. Reaching out is expanding my world.
I am sure that more opportunities will come to me as I move along the path. So often our vision is near sighted when we start a new adventure.

Hence, learning about marketing and making my blog more influential is not something I am attaching to. I am just gently learning. The lessons are available in many books and can be daunting. Language, terminology, links, tags…..
The main lesson that I am happily learning now is the happily part. If I enjoy writing my blog as well as doing art and working in community groups, then all is well.
I will learn. Over time. It is not like learning to drive standard… oh don’t get me started on that “road block”.

Liberals, Coalitions heating up for Winter

Birken Forest statue of Buddha

Birken Forest statue of Buddha

One of the warmest winters ever according to my sister-in-law from Denver. It is 65 degrees and no snow. Here the delphinium thought they would give it another try and almost made a blue triumph when they were frozen in their tracks.

Athens is in flaming dismay with the fighting on the streets. Afghanistan hits the news again with more explosive deaths. O.J. finally is put away in prison. Images of people carelessly cut down in Toronto…the good.

Back in Ottawa we are watching the machinations of the conservative government attempting to secure a foothold on the face of government while citizens are worried and distracted. It is excellent adherence to tactics that Machiavelli laid out. Distract and attack.

When Ed Broadbent, Jean Chretiane, Jack Layton, Bob Rae and a scattering of other political professionals who normally have little to do with one another are all brought together enough to become phone and email buddies, you can bet your bottom dollar that they are motivated. And it is the bottom dollar that is the issue.

Where are the stimulous packages for the economy, where is the husbandry of the environmental issues, where is the concern for protecting and guiding citizenry through a tough time when they need health care, pensions, and programs to bolster them up during a crisis. Oh, I guess the government only just noticed that there is an economic crisis.

At a time when much seems to  be breaking loose from its holding point, individuals need more than ever to be like the elephant swimming a turbulent river, neither being swept away nor trying to stand firmly on the bottom which is impossible in shifting silt. Meditation practice and a refusal to be caught up in the delusional world become not only important on an individual level but begin to act as a steadying influence on those around you, on the economy and most importantly in the ability to rebuild another form of social structure which will grow out of the falling away of those things which are not currently working. Such as our party political system which is not serving us cake and funny hats.

We are in a period of change. Let us think about how this can actually make our lives better and more meaningful.

Coalition Government, Stephen Harper Master Strategist

Stephen Harper: Master Strategist

URL: http://www.rickmercer.com/blog/index.cfm/2008/12/3/Stephen-Harper–Master-Strategist
Okay we just might as well admit it and get it over with. Stephen Harper is a genius.

Here we are faced with a global economic crisis. Nations all over the world are struggling to figure out how to protect their citizens — who are terrified. We’ve seen unheard of cooperation between political rivals all over the industrialized world.

But not in Canada. Not with Stephen Harper. Not on his watch. No my friends, he has one goal and one goal only and it has nothing to do with governing: how can he use this crisis to destroy the opposition?

And wouldn’t you know, he almost did it.

Stephen Harper decided Canada doesn’t need a stimulus package; all we needed to do was cancel the subsidy that political parties get.

Which would have saved the government about $26-million. That’s about the same amount Harper spends on bodyguards every year when he visits danger zones like Thunder Bay or Nunavut.

But the real upside for Harper, of course, is that the entire opposition would have been crippled or destroyed. It gives me great faith to know that as our economy crumbles Harper is on the case trying to come up with new an innovative ways to cutback the Green Party’s office budget and bankrupt the Liberals. And then the world will be a better place.

Maybe he has a point. Maybe that’s why Canada keeps refusing to give the man a majority. It’s not because he’s a mean little man obsessed with revenge, but because we just have too many choices. We go to the voting booth and get confused. Like that first trip to Baskin Robbins.

Maybe we’d all just be better off if Conservative was the only flavour on the menu.

Well we almost found out. Because if Stephen Harper got his way on this, democracy would have changed forever. And not a single citizen will have gotten to vote on the matter.