Marica's meanderings

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I have moved!

Flame Warriors. Check them out at http://redwing.hutman.net/%7Emreed/My husband Lynsey is of Viking descent. When I saw this illustration on the Flame Warriors website it somehow seemed appropriate to use it here. It is particularly pertinent to the announcement I am about to make.

I have moved my blog and I am no longer writing in this space.

My new home is http://marica.ako.net.nz

Lynsey and I decided we wanted to bring both our blogs together onto our own server and under the auspices of our web presence Ako.net.nz.

We had a discussion about the possibility of doing this and before I knew it I was picking a template for my new blog and Lynsey packed me up and moved me. I have spent what little free time I have had this week trying to move posts over to the new blog and trying to make it my space. I still have a lot of work to do and the transition is not fully complete yet.

This blog won't disappear. However, I will not be adding any new posts to it. All my future writing will be accessible at my new blog.

I look forward to your comments on my new look blog which is still called Marica's Meanderings.

See you there!

Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday evening blues

It has been another long and difficult week. I am completely wiped out. I should be downstairs preparing tea for my family. Instead I am sitting here back in front of a computer. I only left work 2 hours ago. Yet here I am at it again! Although I must admit this isn't work, this is what keeps me going.

Every week I promise myself it will be different.

Every week I promise myself I will get more balance in my life.

Every week I promise myself I am going to do something to change things.

Every week I evaluate my working week and commiserate with myself about all the things I intended to do and at the same time berate myself for all the things I didn't achieve.

Every week I reach Friday drained and feeling incredibly flat.

Where is my creativity? Where is my energy? Why am I allowing things to be this way? Why am I not taking control? Why are my promises to myself always unfulfilled?

I find myself in a dubious place, mentally and spiritually, these days. On the one hand, I am in the midst of producing commercials which I have always enjoyed (I have three more shoots scheduled for the upcoming month); there's nothing quite like spending millions of dollars to turn your flimsy, in-the-shower idea into something that runs over and over in people's living rooms (or gets zapped by their Tivos). But whenever advertising work takes up too much of my life, replacing my family, my self, my journal, my leisure, even my blog, I start too feel melancholy and adrift. I start to question all of my priorities and the roads not taken. Even the free time I have becomes contaminated. I stop reading ( I have been on a long sequential jag of lovely Dicken's novels, forsaken for trashy novels and magazines), I stop dreaming big thoughts about what I might do next, I stop talking to friends not involved in my current project, I become overly touchy about other people's judgments, and I feel trapped, like a wild animal hunkered over his prey and now anxious some scavenger will pull it away. It's not pretty.
Danny Gregory, 30 March 2006

I really identify with what Danny is saying. I suppose I too could say I was in a dubious place these days. One of the dilemmas I am going through at the moment is to try and sort out what it is that I really want. It sounds so easy but I am greedy - I want it all! It's not about money - it is about life and living. The problem is you need to be able to earn money to live.

It is as though there are two sides to my being and I am not happy unless both of them are being equally nurtured and satisfied. However, there is an imbalance and one side is sucking the life out of the other side. As a Libran, being in balance is a priority.

I keep being told by others that I am impatient and I want it all now. We have to make every day count. I know this. No day should be squandered. It matters too much. You never get it back again. Time ticks past so fast. Yet with the best intenions, these days I start every Monday with a grand vision and I end on Friday feeling blue!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Valuing and celebrating difference

My son Damian is different. The packaging is different on the inside and the outside. As a result life poses challenges for him that you and I can't imagine. I often wonder what it must be like living inside his body. I love him. I want to protect him. I want the best for him.

I have watched him fight; to stay alive that is!

I have watched him get excited over the simplest of things.

I will never forget when he looked up with his beautiful eyes and asked "Am I going to die?"

I remember the day, only too well; when it suddenly dawned on him that he was different to other people.

I love coming home and being greeted by his huge smile and a big hug.

I hate coming home when he is angry at the world and his reality.

I hate the fear I feel when he is sick. I hate it even more when I see that fear in his eyes too.

I love it when he calls me at work and leaves cryptic messages on my voicemail and when I hear him say "Mama I love you" or "Mama you're cool".

I hate it when he calls me to tell me he is bored.

I want to spend more time with him. I want to make it better for him. I am lost as to what to do next. There has to more than this.

Damian is almost 23 years old. His life revolves around us, his family. His days are spent here at home. Mostly alone because we are all at work.

Apart from watching wrestling and numerous other DVDs, Damian has one other thing he does which he loves. Every Tuesday he goes to Art Compass.

Last year Damian was part of a group of artists from Art Compass who exhibited art, prints, jewellery and clothing in an exhibition entitled 'Diversity' held at 91 Aro Street, Aro Arts, Wellington. This was incredibly exciting for him.

creative process
uninhibited
free from cultural conditioning
it flows
art grows
they grow
challenging our perception of
intellectual impairment labels

21 march 2005

A sketchbook page from one of Marcel Baaijens' visual diaries. Exhibiton held at 91 Aro Street, Aro Arts, Wellington, NZ, 20 - 24 April 2005 Then back in January we received a letter which I would like to share with you. At the time I couldn't deal with it. I still don't know how to deal with it. The content of this letter has huge implications for Damian.

I am writing about it because I think it is a great example of how someone can be beaten down by a society and system which only sees value in a person based on regular job based outcomes.

Marcel Baaijens had a vision. He cared. He believed in the artists he was nurturing and supporting. He wanted to create new possibilities for people where their options were almost non-existent. He wanted to create artists with a future. Artists in their own right. Doing it their way. Sharing their joy at their achievements. Giving them a chance.

But no, this was not allowed!

18 January 2006

Today is a very, very sad day. I am very sorry to inform you that Art Compass will be closing down.

The support for the vision that I had when I started Art Compass is not sufficient to sustain our operations. We need a director, art facilitator(s), administrator, production manager, retail manager, fundraiser and accountant to do the work properly. Similar organisations have a team to take care of those tasks. Most of those tasks I have done on my own. This workload is getting too much for me.

A new part-time administrative/fundraiser position that was created late last year was financially unsustainable. Research confirmed what I expected all along that we were unable to fund our operations from funding applications alone. Without a government cobtract we are unable to exist. More and more organisations compete each year for a decreasing pool of funding.

New Zealand is lacking the political willingness at national and local level to support an organisation like ours. we have existed by the grace of the Sisters of Compassion who shared and fully supported my vision. Being part of the Compassion Centre has been just wonderful.

A senior policy analyst from the Ministry of Social Development finally confirmed
that we fall within a funding gap. Art is still not seen as a career option for people with intellectual disabilities, unless they can fill existing vacancies which is unrealistic. All funding is geared towards the creation of jobs. Supported self-employment is not an option at this moment in time.

The creative and human potential that we have unlocked in our artists, of whom the
majority were deemed to have no potential at all, will unfortunately remain just that: potential. This will come at a great cost to the artists, their families, and society, as economic potential will be lost and welfare dependency perpetuated.

10 Haining Street, Wellington, NZ. The outlet store for the Art Compass artists.Too many odds have been stacked against us. Five years of struggling and juggling have taken its toll on my work and myself. I am saddened and frustrated that I have been unable to take my vision beyond the current level.

The new shop, although doing well, has not generated enough income to become self-supporting. A big rainstorm just before Christmas exposed some major water proofing issues that are too big to deal with.

The studio will close just before Easter. The shop will remain open as long as we can.

I want to thank all those who have supported Art Compass in any way over the years, you know who you are, and your help has been much appreciated.

Marcel Baaijens
Programme Director

Tom Beard announced in his blog on 21 March 2006:

On a sadder note, 10 Haining St closed down last weekend. At first, I wondered whether this was due to an overly pioneering decision to open so far from the beaten retail track, but a note on the door explains that its parent charity, Art Compass, has wound up due to lack of funding. I hope that the artists find other outlets for their
work.

I have no idea what awaits my son, nor the other artists.

I do however have a plea. Please don't judge those that are different and assume they have nothing to offer. They are people who have feelings and needs. Just as you and I work, laugh, love and play, so do they. The biggest problem for people like my son is that others do not have the time that is required to help them do what needs to be done. We live in a fast paced, intolerant, and impatient world which doesn't allow for anyone who can't keep up. If you can do anything for anyone then "Do it". It may mean very little to you and yet to someone else it could be a life changing moment.

As I have been writing a song has sprung into my mind. An old song from my youth.

Try a Little Kindness by Glen Campbell

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he's sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and stay you're going the wrong way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you'll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Don't walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you'll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

One things for sure, I am celebrating Damian: the man, the artist, and the son. The potential that has started to be unleashed is better than nothing having happened at all. His time spent at Art Compass has been special. He was lucky. I can't wait to bring home Damian's art and hang it proudly knowing that it was created by him. It may not be worth anything to anyone else but to us it is worth more than any amount of money.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Street conversations

I have been endeavouring to write regularly, to listen more carefully, and to increase my awareness of everyday things going on around me.

Today as I was walking up Cuba Street I was stopped in my tracks by a group of people catching up with one another. They had completely blocked the footpath. They were so busy talking that they were oblivious (at least that is what I would like to think) to the fact that they were holding up the pedestrian traffic flow. There were lots of people in town. It was a Saturday morning after all and many people were heading for the cafes and the shops.

As I endeavoured to get past them I overheard a conversation that was taking place.

One of the women said to one of the guys: "What are you up to these days?

"Waiting" he responded.

"Waiting?" she said in a rather perplexed manner.

"For what?" she continued.

"Waiting tables" he replied in a manner which suggested she should have known what he was talking about. It was surely self-evident what he meant.

The penny dropped. They continued.

I smiled as I squeezed past them.

It takes work to communicate so that the other person gets the correct message. We so often assume that the people we are communicating with are operating within the same context that we are, especially when they are our friends and acquaintances. We make far too many assumptions when we communicate. This often results in miscommunication. The same word may have a number of different meanings. The meaning we ascribe is the one that makes sense for us. It may not be the same for someone else.

As I work with my learners I am often reminded of this fact.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Moments in time

We were sharing a sisterly moment. We had both just attended the most inspirational workshop facilitated by Trevor Romain on writing memoirs. We wanted to talk about it. The sound of my sister's mobile phone ringing interrupted us. I could tell straight away that something was wrong.

Barba Ivan had died! Our mother's beloved youngest brother, our uncle, had lost his fight with a brain tumour. He had taken his last breath. He was no longer suffering. Sadness overtook us both. My sister and I held each other and cried.

Ivan Viskovic 10 March 1935 - 19 March 2006

10 March 1935 - 19 March 2006

I have only ever met my uncle twice. He lives in Perth, Western Australia. It seems so close and yet so far.

I will never forget his beautiful smile, his boyish giggle, his sparkling eyes, and his incredible heart. Oh yes, and his passion for shoes! I'll never forget that afternoon when this piece of information was unearthed.

My mother and I were visiting my uncle and his family. We were having a family lunch at a vineyard. We were sitting and discussing what everyone had been up to during the morning.

"Your mama and I went shopping" said my aunt.

"She bought a lovely pair of shoes" said my cousin.

I laughed. "Mama loves shoes. She is always buying new shoes. Her taste in shoes is superb, and expensive! Sometimes I'm lucky enough to acquire a pair that have gone out of favour. We often joke that mama is another Imelda Marcos!" I said.

I could see my uncle smiling at the other end of table. His face lit up as though some family secret had been revealed.

As quick as a flash one of cousins said: "Dad loves shoes too!" My uncle was still smiling away. "He collects the mailouts that come in the letterbox and goes out to buy shoes that are a bargain, much to mum's despair".

There appears to be a shoe gene in our family. My mother has it. My uncle had it. My youngest daughter definitely has it. If you are talking to my husband he'll say I have it to!

Moments in time are special.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The power of blogs

Trevor and Amiel Romain, Scorching Bay, Wellington, NZ. Don't they look great after having flown here all the way from Los Angeles?One day to go until Blog Hui.

Today is one of those special Wellington days. The sun is shining. It has created this amazing haze so that the light is not crisp and clear as it usually is. Colours look incredibly different. It is warm. I am automatically feeling energised as a result. Lynsey and I have so much to do for tomorrow but none of this is as important as going to the airport to meet Trevor and Amiel Romain. Our international guests, and the conference participants, are all arriving in readiness for an exciting two days filled with conversation, networking, and new learning.

I was so excited about this meeting. I have formed a connection with Trevor (although he wouldn't be aware of this fact) through his writing. He writes about things that are all too familiar to me. He writes with soul. I am drawn to this. I couldn't help wondering what he was going to be like in person. There was a bit of fear there - would I be disappointed? Will he live up to my expectations? What was I expecting? I allowed past disappointments to linger and fester.

I could hear a voice inside me saying: “This is so silly Marica. It will all be okay.”

Interestingly I didn't voice any of my concerns to Lynsey but as it turns out he was thinking similar thoughts.

The plane was due to arrive at 9.00am. We headed for the airport in what we had thought would allow us plenty of time to get there. However, we weren’t thinking straight. We forgot today was a work day. After all neither of us were so going to work today so why would anyone else be? Reality dawned. We were trying to get to the other side of town during rush hour traffic. As we sat there in the car, not moving, we realised we might not get to the airport on time.

Bit by bit we edged our way forward another car length. We had to devise a new plan. We would take the back route to the airport which would lead us on a scenic route around the bays. I love this trip. I love the sea. It is beautiful. It feels great to be alive.

We pulled up outside the terminal at exactly 9am! I raced inside while Lynsey parked the car. We didn't want to be late. Lynsey and I were both disappointed that our plan to meet Mark Bernstein when he arrived a couple of days earlier had been unsuccessful. We were determined this was not going to happen again!

I ran up to the monitor to check which gate the plane was arriving at and imagine my relief when I read the words: Flight delayed. Expected arrival time 9.30am.

Trevor and Amiel Romain having fun on the rocks outside The Chocolate Fish Cafe, Scorching Bay, Wellington, NZI waited for Lynsey and we headed off to have a large latte. As we were sitting there we saw the plane from Auckland land. We watched it make its way across the runway to the gate where the passengers would disembark. We headed over there to greet our guests.

As people walked through the doors I kept wondering “Is this them?” I thought maybe we should have been holding a card with their names on it just as the taxi drivers do. What if they walked past us and we didn't recognise each other? The voices in my head were having a field day.

Lynsey spotted them first. I was a bit unsure.

I saw two people head directly towards us. They had the most captivating smiles on their faces. They looked so happy. I instantly felt the same. Fear melted. Everything changed.

They gave us the biggest, warmest, most meaningful hugs.

“We have been looking forward to this moment” they both said.

And so it began … a new friendship. Everything else could wait. Time together is always so precious. Nothing else is ever more important that spending time with others. In our busy work oriented lives it is so easy to forget this.

You might be wondering how all this connects to blogging.

Trevor commented in his blog:
I am in New Zealand at the moment. I would not be here if my friend Danny Gregory didn't inspire me to start a blog.

Ironically, I too was inspired by Danny Gregory. We form connections on a daily basis in our online worlds only we are not aware of them. Little did I know that the simple act of stumbling across Danny's blog would eventually lead me into blogging, into organising and holding a blogging conference here in Wellington, and into meeting people face to face that I have only ever known through their words communicated over the Internet?

Communicating online has a unique power. It enables possibilities that once seemed to fall into the realm of being impossible or too hard. Now you blog, or send an email, and before you know it you may be travelling across the world to speak at a conference, and at the same time you are making new connections and new friendships.

This all began thanks to the humble blog.

Trevor whipped this card up and presented it to us later that evening. Don't you wish you could do this? I know I do. I hope some of his talent rubs off on me!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The countdown

Blog Hui begins on Friday. Both Lynsey and I are beginning to feel excited. Two of the international speakers have arrived - Torill Mortensen and Mark Bernstein. I can't wait to hear everyone and meet everyone.

We had so many things to do today. As we were dashing about we bumped into Mark in town. A quick change of plans. Everything else can wait. We decided to spend time with Mark instead and so began an afternoon and evening of sightseeing, discussion and fun!

Mark and Marica having a chat while waiting for a coffee at the Chocolate Fish Cafe in Scorching Bay, Wellington