Friday, April 25, 2014

Primary Days

  I don't know how long I will have the good fortune to teach my 7-9 year-olds in Primary. They are truly wonderful children. We have finished our three month journal and we all love the new additions.

   Each week week we fill out a journey page as the lesson closes. This is available here and I am so grateful for this gift. Providing continuity from week to week, these glue-ins give my students a quick review of what we just learned and more review when we look through our journals later.

   We still love pop-ups. Here Enoch helps his people to repent and they are embraced into heaven.

   A new addition to our journal pages come from The Redheaded Hostess. They are not free but the small cost is fair to keep the resources available from talented thinkers and artists. These glue-ins and worksheets have moved us to a new level of scripture study. We enjoyed creating Abraham's altar of sacrifice as the sobering story of the sacrifice of Issac unfolded. They tied the sacrifice of God's son to this story almost immediately.

     We now read blocks of verses and are going beyond the finding part of scripture study into the analysis stage. Some of their insights are amazing.

     I am moved to find how eager children are to learn and work for light and truth. I firmly believe that children deserve to be engaged in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This engagement gives the Holy Ghost opportunities to testify and reveal the hand of God in all the lives of his children.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Calm And Stillness

One of the guideposts to wholehearted living is developing calm and stillness, according to Brené Brown, author of "The Gifts of Imperfection".  I am certainly more calm now then thirty years ago.  I do have a protocol, when faced with adversity, which does not serve me. My first response is to feel a dread rise up from my gut. That feeling is so familiar and it brings on panic. Panic then leads to futurizing about all the possible bad scenarios. I am recalibrating this native response. One tool is making a calm map.

This map leads me to a new way to process adversity. That dread feeling has been swallowed and pushed back down in the past. Not a healthy way to process feelings. I am going to try to allow that feeling to rise and dissipate. Noticing nature is another way to come back to calm. Nature has many examples to share. Take, for instance, this Shamrock plant. It closes during the night. The leaves fold up and rest. As light grows brighter and the day progresses it opens up and spreads out. I have never seen this in a house plant.

    I feel the affects of inviting calm into my life. It gives me more confidence about myself facing the future. It makes me more pleasant to be around.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

About Creativity

   I had a great conversation with my brother today. I told him about my online class and started barraging him about the importance of a creative life. He is a scientist who has ascended high enough in his life to be able to invent new avenues of research and he has a research team to do the grunt work. He is a "creative".

   Our father was a "creative".  He seemed to always have an art project happening somewhere. I think that allowed him to lose everything three times and completely start over. My brother voiced the opinion that had he had more resources his artwork would have been more refined. I countered with what I felt was the real point. His process kept him sane, centered and curious. What he produced was probably amateurish but there was never a time in his life that he stopped creating.
   Take his draft into the German army. He had a family. Going to war was not his idea. In his journal he writes of sketching his fellow soldiers and being noticed for this skill. Soon he was sketching his officers.
  When he emigrated to America he built a little studio in the back yard. Along with hard physical work, being a husband and father, learning English, he carved out time to paint. The walls of his studio were covered with pictures of his homeland painted on the drywall. I gave little thought to this habit. But, now as I'm filling my life with art and painting I use him everyday as a role model.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Uncertainty, Risk, and Emotional Vulnerability

   Some weeks ago my high school piano students performed in a recital together. The senior played seven pieces to show her achievement over a decade of practice. I had them together in a rehearsal and talked to them about uncertainty, risk, and emotional vulnerability. When asked if they would rather not perform they all agreed they would pass. But, I pressed on them the idea that I was providing them with an experience that could help them grow. I encouraged them to be "all in"; to show the audience the depth of their feelings. That moment passed before my eyes again as yesterday I had such an experience.

     Yesterday afternoon I prepped to look acceptable on camera. I was uncertain if I would get to Skype with my e-course instructor during our Question and Answer broadcast. During the process of being interviewed I had to make a choice as to whether I would allow myself to embrace this opportunity or whether I would play it cool and prepare to be dumped at the end. The difference would be in how much energy I would expend. The hour before the broadcast I was talking to the director as he positioned me in front of my computer many times. He would make small talk to release the tension of waiting and anticipating. I was able to see the broadcast and still hear the director's instructions in the background. Brené Brown was suddenly there starting the show. She is so friendly and energetic. The director informed me I would be the first call and told me he would signal me just before I appeared on the camera. Right then my vulnerability sky-rocketed. But, too late to panic I heard him count off 5 and there she was saying hello. Do you know how hard it is to listen to someone as you see your face splattered next to theirs? She was talking to me and expecting me to banter back and forth. I kept bringing my mind back to the moment. The miracle was she answered an important question I did not know would be discussed.

   Why do we get push back from others when we choose to work on ourselves?  Are we self- indulgent and self- absorbed when we try avenues of growth and change? Brené's answer made absolute sense. Others judge us when they see their own weaknesses under attack. The only way to address a critic, especially one close to us, is to kindly suggest that they might try to open a channel for growth in themselves. So there I was learning even under heightened sensory stimulation. It may be difficult to watch the rebroadcast but I am so grateful for this experience. And by the way, the people who work for Oprah's OWN network are so kind and professional. They called exactly when they said they would and thanked ME for spending my time with them. You should read "The Gifts Of Imperfection" by Brené Brown.

Monday, April 14, 2014

New Experiences

  I am just a little excited today. Into week two of my e-course "The Gifts of Imperfection", a producer of the Questions and Answers broadcast e-mailed me to see if I had any questions for Brené Brown. She asked if she could call me Saturday morning. In the phone call she explained that she was trying to find a few people who could Skype with Brene in the broadcast tomorrow. We talked about the class content and how we both felt about creativity and play. I shared with her my insights into the creative life of my father. "Do you Skype?" she said. Thank-you children, for having regular Skype sessions with me. It allowed me minutes later to have a session with this producer. Her name is Mashawn and she is so good at making people feel comfortable. I caught her eye because of a self-portrait I did as an assignment for the class.

    This is not my greatest masterpiece but I suppose it was different enough to catch her eye. So what happens next? Tomorrow morning I will Skype with the technical team to see how I look on camera. They will advise me what to wear and what to redecorate in back of me. Then in the early evening I will log on to see the broadcast and if the conversation moves to my questions, I'll be talking to Brené Brown. No guarantees, but this makes my class participation hyper concentrated.

    Here is a picture I snapped on my I-Pad while watching a broadcast from Part I of the class. Off to the bottom left of her is a class journal picture I put on Instagram. It is the bright yellow top of a compass I drew. I was trying to illustrate the steady foot of the compass being balanced by the other "searching foot", showing how our lives need to be well grounded but also searching for new truth. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Finding Meaning

               I attended a religious ceremony yesterday with strangers. We were a small company of ten. A man I have often observed in previous ceremonies, who came in a wheel chair, caught my attention. Towards the end. we stood in a circle, facing each other. This man with physical limitations beyond my  ability to grasp, was making eye contact with each of us.

      His gaze was intense. I almost drowned in the love and tenderness emanating from his face. i wanted to look away, but I smiled back. Something very special had happened inside this man.

            I had come to the temple with a prayer that I would learn something of how to be with people. My prayer was answered in the eyes of a man limited in every way, physically, but soaring spiritually.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Freshest Right Now

   Organic strawberries are such a treat in the morning. They have a lesson to teach me as well. They are freshest right now. I can't save them for a later day when I'm out of fruit. I can't have their peak of ripeness any other day. 

    So are the moments of my life. I can't save that thrill of hearing the birds, as I get up, for later this winter. Their call is for now and now is when I must stop to listen.

      Some years I miss April because I have so many lessons to teach and people to call. This year I'm taking time to see April, smell April, and feel the freshness of today.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Healing Scars

       Some new light is rising in my life. I am so glad I went out on the edge to do the "Gifts of Imperfection" e-course and the painting e-course. Both classes stretched my creative soul. I am currently doing the second half of the "Gifts" class. The first guidepost this week, entitled, "I am a creative being", fit like a glove considering all the painting I've been doing. Healing scars in my creative life was the most beneficial exercise this week.

    The assignment was to write down the false perceptions I have concerning being creative. Then cover them with band-aids to start the healing. Here are the ones that resonated in my heart.

  • art requires perfection  just paint over it and try again
  • you are not talented enough  "they" don't know your potential
  • why make art when so many are more talented than you   you make art because it heals you
  • you are not patient enough   put the work down and come back later
  • no one around you makes art  dare to be different and invite others to join you
  • art is only a way to get validation extend yourself to others while you share your art
   This list really makes sense to me. I used some of these mantras while I worked on a big canvas. Picking up a free painting just to reclaim the canvas was bold, but it worked out to be the best decision, ever. Filling a space 20 by 24 is much different that 9 by 14 and applying paint to cover the original took effort.

    My inspiration was a picture of my maternal grandmother. I tried to capture her serenity and strength.  Her fruit was courage, perseverance, and commitment. As a seamstress, she sewed for us all, but also for herself. Her clothes always had lace around the edges to give her a feminine look.

         To finish this painting required starting over and covering the lettering, repainting her face, and  adding texture and new color three times. I love where it is today. I also love that I can see the original peeking through in many places. I know the artist who first covered this canvas. I respect and honor her and in no way wanted to discredit her work, but I wanted to reclaim the space and add my own vision. This all helped to start the healing and I am committed to my creative life.