Monday, March 31, 2008

Weekly Wings: Mission Statement

From Dame Carla's prompts: 'You, Inc. I want you to think of yourself as an organization with four departments: Intellect, Emotions, Body and Spirit. ...Your Mission Statement is a description of how you manifest your personal vision in your daily life; it encompasses who you are, what you want to become, and what you want to accomplish over the next three to five years. ...Having a mission statement will help you channel your energy to focus your actions, behaviors, and decisions in the direction of the things that are most important to you.'

My resistance to this Weekly Wings was astronomical, from the moment I started reading it after Dame Carla posted it on Sunday. Every ounce of my Wings 4 You enthusiasm flounced out the front door with suitcase packed and one-way ticket to ANYWHERE in hand. Mission Statement is a 4-letter word to me, based on years of corporate employment wherein and during which, every 18 months, a new Corporate Management Mentality would enter the arena, requiring vast hours of New Management Mentality Meetings along with a tonnage of required personality tests and written submissions describing, in excruciating detail, my 5-year plans both personal and professional. This would be followed by weak flexing of management toward implementing change, to be forgotten within no more than 8 weeks as the daily demands of the Real Work pressed these Management Pretensions out of existence. Professional life would continue, ad nauseum, ad same-as-always, until the next New Management Mentality Wave struck, at which point I (enterprising soul that I am) would whip out my prior submissions and submit them as responses to the new polls. I detest this process because in 23 years I've never seen a commitment to an existing mission statement, let alone a proposed change.

I've been talking to myself about this since I read Sunday's Weekly Wings post, & certainly it provided my internal dialogue ALL day today, a conversation mostly along the lines of, 'Toni, Luv, this isn't about somebody else's "bottom line". This is all about your TOP line, your flight, your being airlifted toward the next beautiful horizon. Come on, Baby, you can do this."

ICK!!! (Sorry, Carla!) ICK ICK ICK ICK ICK!!!

But probably Dame Carla anticipated this reaction, because she provided a formula and all the steps necessary to tiptoe my way in, through, and ahead of this Mission Statement Thing. The formula is this (&, as she pointed out, the previous Weekly Wings exercises had already accomplished all the 'labor'):

My objecting brain, heart & soul were silenced: whoa, wait a second, this is PERSONAL. This is real. This is where it's actually going to work because YOU are the engine behind the change. And (critical), I would not be opening/exposing my depths to corporate honchos who really only care about my productivity level and company commitment as would impact the profit margin.

Big difference.

11 pages, front & back, I worked through each prompt, sometimes reworked, sometimes scribbled out and started over. I'm cool with that; I wanted to get it right, and I noticed some things were being left out that actually DO mean my future to me. Most notably: my writing.

I'll give you what I count as my top 3 values, which I discovered HAD to remain as value strings, not individual components:
1. Love/Family/Safe Place
2. Artistic Expression/Autonomy/Risk
3. Risk/Safe-Place (duality) = Growth

I'll spare you, now, the 11 pages of wrestling with honing in on defining life roles in family, job, my community, & the world; identifying my present contributions and the future differences I want to make; common themes; my short- & long-term goals for one year, 3, and 5, as well as what I want to have accomplished by the end of my life; and my list of action steps toward all this.

I'll give you, instead, two of my Mission Statements (we wrote one for each of the four areas of our individual 'organization):

Art is my path, my passion, my purpose, my prescription and my proclamation, reflecting externally, in words and visual art, the constantly moving internal horizons and the stones both turned & beckoning.

I ask of myself in small daily ways to reach, to aim toward defined objectives, with confidence and enthusiasm. My steps are realistic and achievable, but NOT 'easy' -- I am committed to being my best, and focus on my highest capability in lieu of my comfort zone.

A bonus exercise given was to design my own logo, which I have sketched out and will attempt to make manifest in some visual form tomorrow evening. It includes a mermaid, a Fedora, and a plumed pen.

Now I am to put all this away and return to it after letting it simmer for several hours, in order to re-read my mission statements and see if I really believe in them, if they set me on fire, if they encompass all that I am and will be. Good idea, really really good idea. I suspect I can find many areas for improvement, going back with fresh eyes and infinitely reduced 'ICK' attitude!

Inspiring Women

From MSN LIfestyle: 15 Amazing Women You've Never Heard Of (I can't find any writer's credits, sorry!):
Sarah Chayes: Activist [Photo: Deborah Feingold/Corbis]
It’s a long way from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Kandahar, Afghanistan. But for reporter-turned-activist Sarah Chayes, it turned out to be the right journey. Shortly after 9/11, Harvard-educated Chayes was working as a Paris-based correspondent for National Public Radio. In light of world events at the time, she agreed to a short stint in Afghanistan.

Chayes was so moved by the Afghani people and their struggles that she ended up staying and became committed to helping rebuild Afghanistan. She accepted an invitation from the Afghanistan government to help run Afghans for Civil Society, an aid organization created to rebuild what had been destroyed during the years of Taliban rule.

In 2005, continuing her commitment to rebuilding the Afghan economy, Chayes created a foundation called Arghand, a cooperative that promotes the use of local crops, such as pomegranates, to produce highly sought after natural soap and beauty products, in an effort to replace the country’s dependency on opium poppies as a cash crop.

Zainab Salbi: Women for Women International
[photo: David Levinson/Getty Images]
Zainab Salbi was born and raised in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Surviving that nation’s wars taught her that the hardest-hit victims inevitably were the women and children—women who lost husbands, children who lost fathers, women who were used as tools of war through rape and torture.

Determined to change that, in 1993 she founded Women to Women International to help women survivors of war rebuild their lives through vocational training, providing seed capital for women to start their own businesses and helping women learn to read and write to become active citizens in their societies.

Since its inception, WFWI has raised $24 million and helped more than 55,000 women in wartorn countries including Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Rwanda. For its trailblazing humanitarian work, WFWI was awarded the 2006 the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, which included a $1.5 million award to continue its work.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Botanical Whimsy

Every month, my on-line art group holds a lottery. April's theme is BOTANICAL WHIMSY. Just what, I ask ya, could be more perfect for a girl trying to 'lively up herself'? This is my piece, done on a base of thin wood that was used as packing for a painting shipped from Italy -- so she's got a bit of Continental Glam underneath, too! Whimsy Girl is 10-1/2" x 12-1/2", too big for the scanner at work so I had to take her out into the sunshine and shoot some pictures. Miss Whimsy stands proud on a background of something like 7 layers, from gesso to paper flowers to stencils to textured gel medium to clear gesso with foam stampie imprints on/in it to lift the paint and reveal the colors underneath. The 'trellis' is actually pieces of a broken picture frame. I used rub-ons for the black flower 'bits' that show on it, then painted it with irridescent glaze. For the longest time, I've been using that picture frame border as a stencil, but it had seen better days, so I snapped it all apart for this piece.

My friend Beth (HERE) is the creator of these Big Head Journal Girls -- ever since I saw hers, I've been dying to make one. This seemed a perfect occasion. Her dress has real pressed flowers on the hem, set with Diamond Glaze (ditto the two purple flowers on her head). The flowered panels of her dress were white, but I painted over them with Citrine Yellow paint jewels.
Origami bird. Try number 611 to make a BUTTERFLY, not a bird at all. Zoe was in bliss, though; I was raining paper wads down on her!!
Spring is most definitely here, in Phoenix -- and since it lasts all of 12 minutes before we go to plus 100-degrees, I'm BASKING!!! And wearing flip flops every possible second.

High Stakes Ciera & Her High-Rolling Partner, Snowflake

This just in from my bro', Cam: "Chris taught Ciera to play poker. "
"FYI - Note that the hampster, Snowflake [center, top - tiny grey & white blob to the left of the poker chips], is dealt into each hand."

"Snowflake wins a lot too, and she chews the cards so she's working with a marked deck."

This Just Flew In (& More Foot Wars)

My Lovely Mother surprised me with this chica today, when we went out for lunch and a stroll through Michael's and the Hallmark store. Do NOT let this little lady's precious appearance fool ya. Having learned she loves a margarita, & never refuses to dance on tables if 'the song has a good beat & you can dance to it', I've decided to name her "Cher", after one of my An Affair with Art friends who shares her habits!

To paraphrase a song I very vaguely remember from the 80's: "I'm too sexy for my beak!"
New Avon "Spa" flip-flops, also from My Lovely Mother, with feathered friend embellishment. Beat that, Veronica!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Picture by Zoe

Was sitting at the kitchen table, cleaning the MuthaCam, with My Cat Posse of One in my lap. Zoe was quite determinedly TAZZING with the camera strap, to the point that I had to lift the MuthaCam over my head so she wouldn't scratch the lens (cap was off). At the moment I lifted my arm, her petitely-well-aimed claws followed the dangling strap but hooked the inside of my upper arm instead. FLASH!!!! I pressed the shutter release and howled, simultaneously, in reaction.

Above is Zoe's picture. Honest to goodness, but I LOVE it!

My Furry Blogging Partner

Zoe assumes her Let's Go Blogging position: right side of the flattop, semi upside-down, right pawlet covering the eyes.

Wake me up if you find something really spectacular, ok? Otherwise? ....... zzzzzzzzzzzz

Three Places of Wonder & Escape for Me

I discovered Christine Adolph's blog yesterday at work. Christine Adolph is -- uh -- well, probably number one for me as far as the stamps she designs (Stampington) and her papers. I did NOT know she had a blog. I'm just dense enough not to Google and find out, I guess, cuz surely it's been there all along. Anyway, I've spent most of the morning INHALING this blog. I'll never let it go, now! [My new blog doesn't show where I've linked to somewhere ... in this case, the link is the first time I use Christine's full name.]

I found this blog very early on after it began, and return return return. I respect, & laugh with & love this coyote, Charlie. And I think Shreve (who cares for him, and this blog) would be a friend under other circumstances -- rich rich mind, this woman, and great photographer. Click HERE, and visit.

I have never, in all my life, been part of an extended circle of girlfriends (more than one, I mean by that): partially due to constantly moving, partially due to my own preferred activities being of a solitary nature, partially due to my having always just had ONE close friend. But this blog teaches me every day about possibility, shows me friendship with women in ways I have never known but WANT to know (if it can be like this). Boho Girl (Denise), HERE, is a photographer, an empath, one of the most peaceful presences I've ever encountered, and a woman with myriad bonds with women -- and, at that, women who fascinate me almost as much as Denise herself. At first encounter with this blog, I actually sneered, 'This can't be real' ... becuz I'd never seen it, experienced it, or even thought I wanted it. [I'm deeply ashamed of that reaction, now.] And I've never commented because I still feel a certain level of a) skepticism and b) jealousy -- I will NOT risk polluting her blog with comments until those emotions are cleansed. Reading her blog is a huge part of that cleansing. The photos she takes of her friends, and they of her? Bring me to tears, without exception. I yearn to that, because the love they have for each other is so evident in the photos -- also how deeply known they are to each other.

Wings 4 You - Core/Suppressed Values & Must-Haves

Ah, Dame Carla, she knows what questions to ask, yup. This week's prompts, regarding unearthing my core and suppressed values, and identifying my must-have's, opened a couple cans of those squiggly worm-thingies that always go along with digging. Here are the exercises, in the order received and with my responses.

Note: for those of you who prefer short-winded blog entries with lots o'photos, my Wings 4 You entries will not be among them. I'm serious about this process and about blogging it, in detail. FYI.

Describe a high point or peak moment/experience in my life or work up to now. What was happening at the moment? What does this experience say about me? What values were being honored in that moment? What do these values mean to me? How can I elaborate on my description of these values?

I combined two recent high moments, one when I was at my brothers' home playing soccer with them, Ciera, and My Lovely Mother, and another when Mom and I were at their home and I was in charge of making dinner. I had my MuthaCam with me to shoot pictures, which are posted on Undertones. The five of us giggled, romped, shrieked, sweat, fell over, ran into each other, cracked up, ran & jumped, coached each other, hugged, high-fived! It was all about family, love, togetherness, participation, enthusiasm, FUN, exercise, athleticism, sharing, and (with the camera, then the cooking) ART.

All of those things: family, togetherness, love, participation, enthusiasm, FUN, athleticism, sharing, and ART -- define my core values perfectly. The only elaboration I could come up with was just the necessity for me of putting PEOPLE BEFORE THINGS, to have interactions and experiences because those are what form my memories, and this requires an on-going effort (no apathy, no laziness).

Describe a moment/experience in your life or work up to now in which I felt frustrated, angry, or upset. What emotions was I experiencing? Why did I feel that way? What values were suppressed or violated in this situation?

I'll be somewhat obtuse here, because this involves someone other than myself. That, too, is a double-edged sword because I'm nearly certain this person does NOT read my blog, which also both injures my soul and pisses me off royally! Meanwhile: I received an email on which I was one of several folks copied, letting me know someone I dearly love [but with whom I have an on-going complex, challenging, & generally unresolved-feeling relationship] would be off-line for a while due to computer issues. I had previously sent this person a lengthy, chatty, loving e-mail describing recent activities of my family and myself, including various descriptions of my art endeavors, to which I had received no response. Upon learning this person would be incognito, I found myself sarcastic inside, saying 'so what else is new?' I felt frustrated, ironic, sad, angry, and especially I felt (again, & still) invisible AS AN INDIVIDUAL. Always part of a group copy, just a "cc" on a generic line. Hmmm. It seems no matter the discussion, the effort, the letting go of things, this relationship remains deadlocked. And I am hurt and angry at receiving zero individual recognition or acknowledgment. That represents the violated values: no 'personal' love, so little togetherness, just this strenuous and strained kind of generic interaction. I HATE it. I also resent that the effort for upgrades, change, etc., seem only to be initiated by me. I spend more time withdrawing, now, which raises the squiggly worm of cowardice within me -- where is my willingness to make the effort? No matter how long it takes or what the personal sacrifice? ... sigh. This one remains open-ended.

Beyond my basic survival and community needs, what must I have in my life in order to be fulfilled? What qualities are essential to the life of my spirit? What gives energy to me now? What do I most value about myself, my relationships, and the nature of my work? What 1 or 2 things do I want more of, or different?

I require 'moments' - spontaneous or created/helped; connection, feeling an essential, integral, contributory person/persona in my circle of loved ones; FUN!, artistic capturing/expression of those moments; and LOVE. My spirit is nourished by risk, coupled with a safe place, artistic expression, travel (local, afar, via books or conversation), seeing NEW (stimuli), and nature. My energy now is sourced from art experiments, the on-line group I belong to (An Affair with Art), goals, reading, naps, photography, and my changes in diet/exercise routine. I most value about myself: intelligence/creativity, learning 'on my feet', intuition, sense-ory abilities/responses, "vision". In my relationships, overall, stagnation doesn't happen. We laugh, challenge each other, grow, express love physically and verbally and via actions, and we're able to incorporate each individual's autonomy and separate space. I consider my 'work' to be of the personal, not my paycheck-producing 'job' -- so all of the above-listed elements are relevant. I would like more all-of-us-together family time, and more mental/intellectual stimulation at my job.

Revisit what I wrote in response to the above exercises, and pull out why I consider the most important values and concepts that have emerged. Using each value as the beginning of a string, write a series of several related words separated by a slash. When I have finished, number the strings in the order of those which I feel are the most essential to my living a fulfilled, harmonious life.

1. Family/Love/Sharing/'Known'/Safe Place/Challenging
2. Fun/Experimentation/New/Build Our Own Traditions/Relaxation
3. Artistic Expression/Truth/Risk/Personal/Autonomous/Spiritual/Peace
4. Love/Acceptance/Safe Place/'Known'/Together/Sharing/Giving/Expression/ Foundation/Center From Which I Operate
5. Safe Place/Double-Sided/Safe so That I Feel Empowered Toward Risk/Core of Creativity
6. Challenging/Risk/Growth/No Stagnation/Expression/Intuition/Movement/ Process

Actually, I already do quite well at this, thanks to my having read The Artist's Way when it was first released, and immediately incorporated the idea of 'artist dates' into my routine. And my male children are old enough now, with such an array of their own preferred activities, that my studio time abounds.

1. Cup o'java with delish flavored cream, and whipped cream on top
2. Spending & gas money to spare
3. Load my bag with MuthaCam, paints, and a new art magazine
4. Drive to an UNpredetermined location
5. Shoot pictures, draw, read, dawdle
6. Swinging at a park wherever I end up
7. Lunch at a new-to-me restaurant
8. Playing Heart & Sheryl Crow LOUD in my truck & singing along
9. Stop at all interesting antique stores & flea markets & such for photo ops, moseying, & trinket scores
10. 15 minutes, minimum, petting a friendly dog
11. A sit-down on a bench next to an elderly person who tells me a great story from his/her past
12. Finding nifty items as I walk along & pocketing them: feathers, rusty bits, stones, receipts
13. Carnitas or chile relleno for dinner
14. Long hot shower with gardenia shower gel
15. A Double BB back massage followed by making love
16. Sleep -- & sleep IN the next morning, then
17. Upload pictures, save the best, and BLOG them to share my adventure!

And tomorrow, Dame Carla will upload the prompts for our next Weekly Wings session.

RAK, & Prime Real Estate

This beautiful RAK arrived in my mail yesterday, from Joan W. with An Affair With Art, my on-line group.

What a lovely face she has, as if she's about to whisper a secret!
Shooting over my patio fence into my neighbor's yard -- an elderly couple lives here, and they're physically unable to tend to their yard. Hence, profusion such as this abounds -- feels like a scene out of Zeferelli's Romeo & Juliet -- "in fair Verona, where we lay our scene ... "
Talk about your prime real estate! This is one Savvy Spider!
If I were a petite, 8-legged gal, I'd use this for my hammock, no doubt! Nothing but sky views? mmmmm.

Ciera Goes Camping!

Ciera, Daddy Chris, and Uncle Cam went camping/airplane wreck chasing the last couple of days. Here are Uncle Cam's photos, with mostly his commentary! BRRRRR! Ciera and Daddy. Ciera puts up with her plane-geek Daddy. Embry-Riddle Starfighter, Prescott. Hey, is that snow in the near background?! Chino Valley, couldn't find the airplane wreckage we were looking for. This girl is an old pro -- Trail Rated! (like Uncle Cam's jeep!) Ciera's sleeping quarters. Hot dogs, beans, corn -- all cooked over an open fire. Marshmallows for later. Cheesehead! (Ciera is a cheese fiend; she also has her own squirt bottle of Balsamic, which she pretty much hoses onto everything that goes into her mouth.) Ciera on the trail ...... ponderosa pine near Prescott. [Notice how she manages to make it appear she's on a catwalk at New York's Fashion Week?] Ciera on the RR tracks in Skull Valley, AZ.

[[[[[ ***** PICTURE WITHHELD DUE TO CONTENT ***** ]]]]]]

I promised I wouldn't blog this picture, but I didn't say nothin' about Cam's accompanying comments!!! The picture is entitled: Bonding Moment. Cam wrote: "Chris and Ciera peeing simultaneously (Ciera is in a porta-potty chair, even though she doesn't need it because she can pee anywhere in the wilderness now with the best of us)." Hey!! ... this is from a family of hard-core campers, all of whom fart INTO the campfire, and we're bringing our children up into this very important family tradition! Ciera, who will be 7 in May, truly holds her own!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ashlee is Here! Ashlee is Here!

Say hello to my niece, Ashlee! She plays basketball for UC-Santa Barbara -- is in town for a long weekend, and came by to pick up my youngest male child for a weekend of fun at Lake Pleasant. I have to post these pics HUGE, cuz I rarely get to SEE Ashlee to take pictures, and because Double BB actually permitted himself to be photographed. Eesh! Blimey!!! Be still my heart!!! Also, for the first time, I actually did some photoshop touch-ups, cuz these came out SO dark ... and Ashlee has already left, so there was no taking them over.

Ya know, forget Helen of Troy -- THIS is the face to launch a thousand ships!

Ashlee, Uncle Bobby, Cousin Kevin ... she makes me wish we'd had a daughter! Look what the family DNA is capable of producing!!!
Ashlee is a goddess. Look at those dimples! The shape of her eyes! Wowza.
But Uncle Bobby, you have GOT to do something about these jeans! & put some lotion on your knees!
Note: Ashlee is a freshman at UC-Santa Barbara, recruited from Chandler High School here in Arizona. Full athletic scholarship. UC-SB made it to the NCAA Women's Basketball 'big dance', but lost a week ago to the #4 Seed Virginia. Ashlee got some playing time and scored 10 of UC-SB's 50 points. I am SO PROUD of her -- to play, as a freshman, to go all the way to the Big Dance, to play (& score) in their game ... amazing accomplishments, all! At 6'-1" (in shoes, she says), on court she's a sight to see!

Stampbord & Soot Experiments

In the current issue of Stamper's Sampler is an article about this Stampbord product, and a woman who 'invented' this process of holding it over a candle flame and getting it sooty, then stamping into the soot. I LOVE THE WAY THIS LOOKS. I got my Stampbord (20 2x2 pieces) through Oriental Trading Co. really cheap! The bottom is a RAK I made, going out Monday!Another RAK I've finished -- will be going out in the mail on Monday.

Spring Break Ciera

This just in from my bro', Chris: "I just took these shots 5 minutes ago. Ciera is out having fun in the sprinkler!

We're heading out on our camping trip tommorrow. Ciera and I shopped for the camping trip earlier. We made fresh wraps for lunch tommorrow (black forest ham, sprouts, mayo, romaine, and cheese in spinach wraps). For dinner it's hot dogs & baked beans. We also put fresh corn on the cob with French beans, butter & cilantro in a big baggie (which we'll roast in the fire in aluminum foil). Can't wait."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chinese Cultural Center - Statuary & Stonework

One must first & always, of course, charm the guardian dragon. I did a little tap-shuffle-dip number but refrained from singing ... smart move! I also voiced strong positive opinions about his goatee, and discovered he's a little ticklish under the collar ruff!

Here is my new friend, the face of welcome on this my new blog!

I just know she's about to tell a blond joke!
Demure, shy, she greets us visitors. Is she a little sad? Perhaps she would like her own chance to meander slowly through this lush, solemn, harboring garden.
I want to touch her, hold her face, let her know it's all right with me if she meets my eyes, speaks.
And here be the guardian of the water source, fearsome & watchful, a trifle slobbery as is only natural for such as he. I did NOT try tickling him under his chin!
There were five of these gentle stone souls here, facing the Buddha in the center of the lake. Each of these is holding something particular -- do they tend to Buddha's earthly or physical needs?
This is my favorite of the five statues lined up so quietly, so patiently, above. I can't quite discern what he's holding -- a basket with a leaf or feather in it?
This is a magical photo for me -- if I step through, will I be transported to 15th century China? Will I have long straight silken brown hair, a slender physique, a walk as graceful as all my ancestors? Will I finally be SHORT?
Detail of stone arch and eaves.
Stone pattern on several of the pathways. Luscious!!! I'd never seen anything like this before.
This is how I imagine/prefer the face of any spiritual or artistic mentor to look: wisdom, surely, but also accessibility, warmth, more than a small touch of the impish. He even pulls off his uni-brow with panache, doesn't he? It seems more like a pair of wings with a center jewel, there on his forehead. When my dad used to patiently (& endlessly) tutor me through algebra and geometry and calculus, his face looked like this. Thank god, or I'd still be trying to pass 9th grade math.

Mythical Bird (& I Thought I'd Imagined It!)

Ok, don't know if anybody caught this blog entry over on my Undertones blog ... meanwhile, notice, please, the doodled creature on the top right. My little notation says, 'Mythical creature. Bird? Greyhound?' I thought I'd imagined it, made it up, dreamed it. But check this out ...

This ... THIS! ... is the first thing I saw on the side of the gardens with the open gate. Excuse me?!!!!!
Rather an imposing fella ... I've been googling him to try to find out his story ... nothing yet.