Thursday, August 15, 2013

I approach Forty as I would an Eating Disorder

For the next six months I'm going to do something amazing every day.  It might be having a salad for dinner, or going to the gym...or happy hour at Mai Tais.  (Depends on the day)

I approach forty like an eating disorder, which will be easier to deal with in hindsight, but here I am now.  Geneen Roth wrote a wonderful and heartbreaking book called, "When Food is Love" and I read it through tear-blurred eyes, the first time, when I was about 13.  One chapter, in particular, has stayed with me- the part about the little girl and M&Ms:

A mother brought her overweight daughter to Ms. Roth, frantically overwrought that her daughter kept gaining wait and she was so young.  Ms. Roth asked the little girl what was her favourite treat, "M&Ms!!!" she cried.  The mother was instructed to get a pillow case and fill it with the chocolate candy and have her daughter carry it around with her wherever she went.  The mother did as instructed and the daughter was ecstatic; candy whenever she wanted it.  At first, the girl started gaining even more weight and the mom not happy, but she kept her mouth shut.  As time went on, the girl started forgetting to bring her pillowcase of candy, and at a certain point, stopped taking it with her altogether.

I might be stretching the metaphor a tiny bit, but my fortieth birthday and all that's wrapped up in it (real or imaginary) is going to stay right with me, so that I can indulge in my issues at any time.  Maybe by the time February comes around, I'll have left my pillowcase of self-doubt somewhere on the side of the road, and maybe it will turn into flowers.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

6 months until 40

"The time is now, the walrus said, to talk of many things..."

Well, in 6 months, I turn forty.  Yeah, yeah, I know, it's just a number.  Regardless, I started taking a Social Psychology class and there was an "about me" portion to fill out on our profile.  I know I'm coming up to a time that is a huge right of passage, and it might take 10 years to get through it...but I feel it.

Here is what I wrote:

As a social entrepreneur, I look at a problem as an artist views a blank canvas, and my mediums are storytelling, art therapy, music, theatre, spoken word, and film.

I have engaged in community activism all over the world, but the experience closest to my heart is when I produced and directed the musical HAIR. The event was preceded by a host of local events, workshops and panel discussions that created dialogue on race, sex, drugs, war, and the environment. Among those who were engaged in this production were the Asheville chapter of the Veterans for Peace, local community cultural centres, UNCA Centre for Diversity, Gary Orfield (former co-director of Harvard Civil Rights Project) and Michael Butler (original Broadway producer of HAIR ). Together we all played a part in this most inspiring community event that served as a catalyst for a diverse group of strangers who became empowered activists and who also created a network of friends. It was a truly profound experience!

A few years earlier, I was honored to facilitate another network of empowerment during my service in Americorps at Mission Dolores school in San Francisco. There I created a women's studies class for seventh grade girls. To witness the girls using a knowledge of their own history, creating identities of confidence, based on critical thinking skills, continues to give me hope that a similar program can be re-created and implemented in schools around the country and eventually the world.

A panoply of skills and good timing helped me secure a position at the 2008 Olympics in China. I was open to this incredible experience after two personal traumas: being hit in the face and chest with fireworks and then being violently attacked in my own home, which precipitated my need to leave my life in Asheville for awhile. While in Beijing, I managed a hospitality suite for executives from Telstra, Australia's biggest media company. Interacting with and making invaluable connections with these corporate giants renewed my interest in social entrepreneurship and reinvigorated my commitment to creating programs for indigenous women in Australia and North America.

To transform this idea into reality is most vital: women in developing countries and indigenous societies are especially at risk for violence, poverty, and have no access to health care.

I used to say, "I want to develop programs that...", but after living in the desert in the Anangu community I don't want to speak at all; the time is for action and support, with consistency and determination. I first learned about the atrocities endured by the Aboriginal population in Australia, and consequently in my own country, while pursuing my Masters degree at Macquarie University, just north of Sydney. Later, I returned to the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land (NT) where my mind and heart were truly opened. After getting married, my husband and I traveled back to Uluru, in the centre, and spend three months with Anangu Elder, Uncle Bob Randall. It's a constant struggle to find the meaning in paying rent when we'd rather be there, being present in the day-to-day of community life. We then spent a month in Aotearoa and continue to be humbled by the power of the First Australians, Maori, and keep learning from their relationship with the Land.

Currently we live on Oahu, Hawai'i. UA MAU KE EA O KA ‘AINA I KA PONO O HAWAI’I. (The life of the land is preserved in "Pono", that which is right and perfect)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

DOVE doesn't give a sh*t about you...sigh.

I love this woman; I love this blog.  I appreciate the comments and am so happy there is a conversation.    Now everyone get out your copy of The Beauty Myth and then watch "Killing Us Softly".

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Vision of Our Future Reflected in the Children we Teach

Since January 7, I have been teaching 5th and 6th grade Language Arts at a Catholic School in Hawai'i.    After a brief rent-compelled stint at Macy*s, I called the Catholic school around the corner to see if they needed a substitute teacher; lo and behold, they needed a full-time replacement for the spring semester.  Even though I've done this before, I still went in with big ideas.  My sails were full to bursting on my ship of academic creativity and I had a full-fledged fantasy in place of bestowing the magic of at least 15 of my favourite novels from middle school, linking verbs, and of course, vocabulary.  I love words, the subtle nuance and power of erudite discourse, and I was ready to shower my new students with all the love and wonder language and grammar can bestow.  

*This is where heartbreaking reality of fifty-six 10-12 year-olds with no discipline nor skills comes crashing down and I venture to cover it up with self-deprecating and cynical humour vaguely aimed at the broken system of Education.*

I was dumbfounded by the lack of basic grammar and vocabulary skill I encountered, and though I'd love to blame texting alone, I have to look at our whole system more critically and open a dialogue about what is really going on in our schools.  

My future vision involves facilitating leadership programs for Indigenous youth from around the world, but I can only achieve this by listening and humbly learning as a student first.

The students I see today have zero ability to be quiet and listen.  They are like rabid animals waiting to break free when no one is looking, barely able to sit in their seats, eyes wild-eyed and bodies twitching.  The children I met in Australia, in the Anangu community at Mutijulu, played joyfully until it was time to listen, then they were absolutely silent watching and listening for all that was said and left unsaid.

When I say, "looking at the whole system", education is only a small part.  What kind of communities do we have that produce these entitled, short-attention span children?  What are we feeding our kids?  What are we watching?  

It's a long road ahead to delve into these questions, but, let's open the conversation and then take action.   Come with me!