Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Parenting For Independence

During the summer of 2012, I noticed that I had all sorts of wonderful resources for specific parenting skills.  I had great books for engaging cooperation, communicating effectively, and understanding both sensory and temperament issues.  But, I didn't have a resource that covered all my pillars of parenting.  There was nothing out there that I could point to and say, "That's it! That's the big picture for me."  So, I thought, wouldn't it be great to write a scholarly article and get it published so that I'd have that reference and hopefully share something useful.  Thus, I wrote the editor of The Objective Standard with my idea, and then the requested outline, and then my first draft.  When he first read the draft, he said it sounded like a blog post.  In hindsight, I wish I would have just listened to him!  But, he gave me all sorts of fascinating guidance and intriguing suggestions for ways to make it into an article attractive to his journal.  We had multiple calls and and discussions and I was determined to keep tweaking and trying.  When I felt like I had maxed out my skills, I tried recruiting a co-author with better writing skills to help.  

So, I spent about two and half years trying to make this into more than it is.  It is a blog post with some references and it fulfills my purpose.  It states what I find most important to me in guiding my parenting. 

I know implementing principles involves tons of individual judgement and I deeply appreciate that every kid is unique and parents know their kids best.    These are the principles that I find most fundamentally valuable, the ones that I notice most when I mess up and find most powerful when I nail them.  I hope they are useful to you.  Please do leave a comment and let me know.


Foundational Elements of Parenting for Independence
Rachel Miner
The challenges of parenting—especially parenting well—become pressing as soon as a mother gives birth. There is a new life, a child, who urgently needs parental care to survive. Children are dependent. They are born utterly incapable of surviving even a few days without parenting, but their dependent status changes.  Newborns rapidly become toddlers who are filled with a desire to be independent. That desire only intensifies as they grow to adulthood.  Parents can nurture or hinder this process. They can raise children to think for themselves or they can dampen that independent drive and nurture dependence on peers or authority.  Parenting for independence involves four key elements: granting children freedom consistent with their given stage of development; helping children learn to reflect on their efforts and successes; teaching children to recognize and effectively engage their personal temperaments; and fostering good communication skills, primarily by modeling them in one's own life.

Environment of Freedom
Of course parents cannot control the whole world, but they do have vast control over the environment of their children.   For example, parents don't choose the weather, but they choose their response.  If there are freezing temperatures, they fully clothe their infants, but what about a toddler who demands his swimsuit or a teenager who spent his whole allowance on a single pair of designer jeans instead of including a new coat?   It is often easier to fully dress the toddler or buy the teenager's clothes, however, children need immense amounts of practice to become independent.  Independence is not just turning a child loose to do his own thing, children need guidance—they need to learn the vast array of skills necessary to become independent adults.  It is a parent's responsibility to ensure that learning opportunities are both safe and developmentally appropriate.  Toddlers can safely choose clothing color, style, and accessories (including extra clothing like that swimsuit), but not to ignore dangerous temperatures.  The school age child can try going out into a snowy front yard in a swim suit, warmth isn't far away.  The teenager can find out that designer jeans don't look quite so nice when wearing an older coat to keep warm.  Parents are constantly making choices about what choices to offer.  Only by practicing independent actions though, within this developmentally appropriate framework, can a child learn to do for themselves.  For each stage of development, children need an environment in which they are free to do for themselves whatever they are capable of safely doing for themselves; this is essential to developing both the physical and cognitive skills required for independence. 
Assuming that a parent wants to offer the best environment to foster such growth, how can a parent create the kind of environment that nurtures independence?  In the infant through preschool years, children focus on  mastering the skills of using their bodies to effectively move, speak, and manipulate objects.  They are self-motivated and enthusiastic learners.  Maria Montessori, as both an educator and researcher, wrote extensively on the powerful results of modifying the environment to allow children to learn through exploring a rich, safe classroom. For example, shelves in such a classroom are easily accessible and stocked with inviting, age-appropriate materials.  Children learn from attempting to put the wrong shape in a puzzle or from spilling a bit when trying to pour water; reality shows them what doesn't work.  Modifying the environment does not mean purchasing separately packaged drinks to avoid the pouring task; it is key that children are offered every developmentally appropriate opportunity to learn.  There are numerous books applying her methods to the home environment as well. 

As children grow beyond the preschool years, parents have the ever changing job of modifying the child's responsibilities to best nurture growth.  The first time a kindergartner folds his clothes, the shirt pile will likely bulge and lean. Even the twentieth time he gets ready for bed, he will probably need a reminder to brush his teeth.  Just so, a ten year old's challenge with completing chores or a teenager's efforts driving and caring for a car are going to present choices to parents regarding the level of their involvement.  The parenting process requires both teaching skills and gradually removing supports thus nurturing more independent actions.  This process is made easier by acknowledging that it is almost always more work to help a child learn to do for himself than it is to do for him. Anything a child can safely and developmentally-appropriately do for himself offers a learning opportunity for the child, and parenting for independence focuses parenting actions on offering a wealth of such opportunities.  
Parents As Mirrors
Children need to learn to reflect on their accomplishments to help them see their progress toward full independence. It is difficult for a child to notice his own growth; he needs help.  He needs someone to point out examples that he does not see on his own.  If children do not think they are efficacious, their motivation for further effort will be sapped because they will not give themselves credit for growth.  For example, if a child does not notice improvement in his math skills, he may feel that the next unit is a useless effort.  The parents can provide detailed, descriptive observations of real growth that children have accomplished, but often don't notice.  This factual evidence is not evaluative (i.e., it is reality based, not the parent's opinion).  In their book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish recommend describing what you see and feel instead of generic praise like "good job".  This allows a child to reflect on the reality of what they've accomplished, not an evaluation of its worth.
"One wonders how such a simple process can have such a profound effect.  And yet, day after day from our small descriptions our children learn what their strengths are: A child finds out that he can take a confusing mess of a room and turn it into a neat orderly room; that he can make a gift that's useful and gives pleasure; that he can hold the attention of an audience; that he can write a poem that's moving; that he is capable of being punctual, of exercising will power, of showing initiative, resourcefulness.   All of that goes into his emotional bank and it can't be taken away.  You can take away "good boy" by calling him "bad boy" the next day... These moments, when his best was affirmed, become life-long touchstones to which a child can return in times of doubt or discouragement.  In the past he did something he was proud of.  He has it within him to do it again."1

Verbal descriptions are one way to offer children evidence regarding growth and progress, but pictures can be even more powerful.  For example, suppose a child is having difficulty with a manual skill like tying shoe laces.  Composing a series of photos of him tackling manual skills with greater and greater success from infancy to the present can provide a powerful support for him to draw his own conclusions about his ability to succeed.  Children form their conclusions about themselves based on their evaluation of their experiences, but it is easy for them to fail to recall progress.  Parents can provide a mirror that helps the child reflect.  With this assistance, the conclusions children form can provide them with powerful, core convictions that make them emotionally stable as adults.  For example, the author provided her son with a cork board covered in pictures with the title: "moving with control".  The pictures included him as an infant unable to hold up his head, crawling, writing wobbly lines, constructing puzzles, frosting a cake, and delicately holding a butterfly.  After reflecting on the pictures of himself, he concluded: "I'm a person who: wants to learn new things, gets better at doing stuff with practice, can be safe with fragile things, can be pretty careful, works hard to learn AND wins at learning new things."  Other topics could be more narrow, documenting a specific skill like hiking or gymnastics, or more broad such as "figuring things out".  The power of this method is that the conclusion is formed by the child based on facts he evaluates first hand.  These conclusions are not susceptible to others' approval.  If the goal is a child that thinks for himself, evaluates reality, and makes his own choices without being dependent on others, providing him with visual and verbal evidence of his growth is a powerful tool toward that end.  Children who have both the opportunity to take independent actions and are nurtured in noticing their progress are primed to approach life independently.

Temperament As a Given
While Aristotle describes the infant as a blank slate, that does not negate the fact that all people are born with different temperaments.  Some babies respond to every touch, noise, or sound with a wail while others are curious or blasé in the same situation.  Thus, while the slate may be blank (i.e., devoid of data) there are still different slates; at birth all children have different temperaments.  A child who has been nurtured to develop independence benefits even more from parenting that helps him see that his temperament cannot be changed.  The child who is naturally persistent can learn the skill of taking mental breaks to refocus, but cannot willfully change that persistent nature.  The child who is naturally sensitive to physical stimuli can learn to bring headphones to block noise, but cannot choose to change that sensitive nature.  Parents hinder independence if they encourage a child to fight against a given temperament; for example, by telling the persistent child not be stubborn.  Parents help their children grow effectively by helping them recognize the nature of their temperament, and then teaching them skills for both dealing with related difficulties and tapping into related capacities.
Since temperament traits are not chosen, and thus not volitional, nothing about them is inherently good or bad.  A child's temperament simply is and must be taken as the given starting point.  (While temperament can change as children grow, they do not pick temperament traits; it’s the slate they are working with.)  As Mary Sheedy Kurcinka states in her book, Raising Your Spirited Child
"You don't get to choose your child's temperament, nor does your child, but you do make a big difference.  It is you who helps your child understand his temperament, emphasizes his strengths, provides him with the guidance he needs to express himself appropriately, and gently nudges him forward... By adapting your parenting techniques to fit his temperament and his style, and teaching him the skills he needs, you help him to live cooperatively with others and to be all that he can be.  To deny him his energy, his need for preparation before shifts, or any of his other temperamental traits is telling him 'don't be'- don't be who you are."2

Parents can best help their children in this area not by attempting to change an intense, persistent, or sensitive child, but by helping him acquire the skills necessary to harness his natural strengths.

Communication as Foundational  
Finally, the method of communication between parent and child is itself a pivotal aspect of parenting for independence. Good communication skills allow parents to effectively communicate as they establish an environment of freedom, mirror a child's successes, and discuss temperament.  They are also foundational for the child. Children need to learn good communication skills to function well as independent adults.  Because children learn these skills mostly from their parents, their parents need to model such skills as a matter of course.  
Good communication skills, like any skill, take a significant amount of practice and effort, but there are two guiding techniques that are useful at this broad level: active listening and observing comments.
Active listening is the foundational communication skill.  Active listening is the act of focusing attention on understanding another.  Does the child see his parents listening to each other and actively trying to understand what is being said?  Does the child experience intense listening?  When he's telling a story, are his parents respectfully focusing eyes, torso, and mind on understanding him?  It is a skill to actively listen without interruptions, seeking only clarification and understanding.  Children cannot learn this skill without seeing it modeled and without lots of practice on their own.  If a child cannot listen attentively, both his ability to gain knowledge and to interact with others effectively is hampered and, therefore, so is his ability to achieve independence.  A child who cannot listen to instruction will not become an adult who can hear his customers' or manager's or friends’ needs.  Active listening is required to gain accurate knowledge from others.

Communicating observations as factual comments allows children to focus on reality and form their own next actions.  For example, saying "I see the ice cream on the counter," is an observation, not an evaluation or an accusation like an irate: "You left the ice cream on the counter!"  Both forms of communicating will likely get the ice cream back to the freezer, but the former will help the child focus on reality and, ultimately, gain self discipline. This also applies to communicating feelings as personal facts, not accusations.  For example: "I'm feeling frustrated!" versus "You frustrate me!".  Commonly referred to as "I vs you" language, this skill focuses communication on facts.  There is no argument about what a person is feeling.  Parents are going to feel angry, hurt, sad, happy, silly, and all sorts of things related to a child's behavior.  Communicating those emotions factually, and then helping children consider ways to handle whatever contributing factor was theirs, is respectful of their process of gradual independence.  Accusatory language makes it harder to focus on facts and grow in independent self regulation. 

In Learning As We Grow, the authors describe a teaching method which enhances this commenting technique and works equally well in parenting. 
"There are different types of prompts we can give: direct or indirect, verbal or nonverbal.  Unfortunately, what often happens is that we resort to very specific and direct prompts in order to get students to 'keep up’ with the pace of the classroom, and stay on-track with what they need to do.  Anytime we use a direct prompt, however, we are removing the opportunity for thinking because we have directly told them what to do.  This ultimately robs students of opportunities to develop the active listening skills, thinking skills, and problem solving skills that they need to be truly successful... Unlike traditional prompting methods that start with the most support and then fade over time, the strategy here is to start with the least specific prompt and move down the list to more direct prompts as necessary... Utilizing this progression ensures that the student gets significant opportunities to think about things, as opposed to being immediately told what to do.  Over time, we should see that the levels of prompting further down the list are not required because the student is doing more thinking in response to less direct prompts.
[Least to most direct prompts]
• Verbal comment about the situation ('It looks like you're having a problem.')
• Indirect verbal prompt to think about possible solutions / actions ('I wonder what you might do about not having a piece of paper.')
• Verbalize a solution you might use ('If I didn't have a piece of paper, I would ask a friend if I        could borrow one.')
• Provide the student two options to choose between ('Are you going to ask a friend to borrow a piece of paper, or will you be getting one from the tray on my desk?')
• Direct Nonverbal prompt (make sure you have student's attention by moving closer and getting on eye level) (Point to the paper tray on your desk.)
• Direct verbal prompt with nonverbal ('Get a piece of paper.' + point to paper tray)3

Parents can actively nurture independence by communicating in ways which help a child choose his own actions.  Sometimes prompts are not enough and a parent must physically help a toddler go get a piece of paper, but the crucial point is that the child experiences gradually more and more independence.  This is precisely analogous, in communication, to the first goal discussed.  Parents nurture independence, in both communication and action, by gradually offering choices so that a child is free to do what they are safely and developmentally capable of doing alone.

Parents who want to raise an independent child are undertaking a significant challenge.  It is much easier to raise an obedient child, yet as Maria Montessori said, "Discipline must come through liberty... We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic.  He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined."4  Freeing children to make their own choices and to learn from those choices is essential to developing an independent orientation toward life.  Such children are capable of innovating and making choices for themselves instead of looking to the authority of parents, peers, or (eventually) a manager or government.  These children can also have the self confidence necessary to learn from mistakes because their parents have helped them see again and again how they have grown from mistakes in the past.  Whatever path the child chooses, he will also have the communication skills necessary to effectively interact with others.  Nurturing a child toward independence is difficult; it is also a profoundly joyous experience as parents see their child delight in the growing abilities which they have helped him discover.


Acknowledgments
The author wishes to acknowledge Andrew Miner and Craig Biddle for their help in editing this paper.  She also acknowledges her son, Cameron Miner, who is both a spirited child and an excellent teacher.

Endnotes
1. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk  
    (New York: HarperCollins, 1980), p.184.

2. Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, Raising Your Spirited Child (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), pp.39-40.

3. Nicole Beurkens, Erin Roon, and Courtney Kowalczyk. Learning As We Grow, (Caledonia: 
    Horizons Developmental Remediation Center, 2009), pp.118-121.


4. Maria Montessori. The Montessori Method, (New York: Schocken Books, 1964), p.86.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

To the End of the Trees and Back Again

While I usually walk to the white fence and back again because I love the varied forest and the fairly flat slope which lets me focus on the nature without the strain of climbing, sometimes I turn left out of the driveway and do our other walk, To the End of the Trees and Back Again.  


As I said, I turn left, and then I pass our giant water tank.

The road slopes up and the edge drops down, away into redwood forest.

It's almost all redwoods this direction and very little sun gets through, just little beams like on the  top right tree here... it's very shady and quiet.

As I get closer to the meadow, there are some deciduous trees and...
... you can start to see the sun and...

from the last home at the edge of the woods you can start to see...

out and over the hills...

with bright sun and...

lovely views.


Then I turn back and the line of going into the redwoods' shade is so clear.

Moss and ferns love the coolness.



And the road winds on...

past exposed roots until I see...

my home peeking through the trees...



and I pass the mailbox and...

arrive home :)


Monday, January 5, 2015

To the White Fence and Back Again


I was having a rough time on Christmas Day for reasons that I'll get to at some point in the future.  I took a walk.  It's a walk we take often.  It's called, "to the white fence and back again."  It's not a very inventive name.  It goes from our house, to the white fence, and back.  In case I haven't made it clear how much I love living in the middle of the Santa Cruz mountains, I wanted to share pictures from this favorite walk that I took that day.  It is deeply nurturing to wind through the varied forest from the peace of a mountain road.

Starting out, the redwoods hug the road.
They're very tall and create such lovely upward vistas.
The first deciduous tree has vibrant, orange bark that the camera doesn't show well.  It is an almost surreal contrast.
More varieties mix in and begin to overarch the road
And completely overarch it as I reach the beginning of the white fence
And finally the end and turn around
And start homeward.
There are trees on their sides with moss glowing in the sun
and two of my favorite trees, giant redwoods with one reaching out a root around its neighbor; I've dubbed them the snuggle trees.

The road winds on through the beauty
Until I reach home 
And go back into its warmth.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Update

I've now been sending out weekly updates for more than ten years.  I haven't mentioned them here in awhile, but the latest one was so fun, that I wanted to share.  If there are friends not getting my updates who want to, please just email or leave me a comment and I'm glad to add you.  I also have a smaller list mostly of my kiddo's teachers who get an abbreviated update entitled "Cameron clips".

My latest update (actually longer than usual and not using my frequent format of summarizing then adding a list of good things):


12/18/14

Hello everyone,

I’m feeling so happy, I figured I’d paste everything together and get out the update early.

First:
My child is turning into a flip monster!  After going through the grumbly, complain-y, it's-too-hard-to-try stage at gymnastics, he's having so much success.  And here are a few clips to show that progress:  

He finally has his front flip solidly (did 22 in a row on the trampoline) and moved off the trampoline for the first time (landed it on the floor only once):
He got really upset several times over the last couple months when he found he’d lost the skill after so much effort and had to relearn it.

He progressed on his back flip from requiring the belt assistance to the teacher assistance and then landed a few on his own!

He made huge strides in a social skills area this week too, so I'm in a mommy zone of warm-and-fuzzy, parenting-is-the-greatest-thing-ever bliss!

Second (and he’s proud of this too, so he was glad for me to share with friends and family what I wrote to his IEP team):


I just had a wonderful experience that showed Cameron's growth and is making me feel all smiley glow-y.  I’m copying Ms. Johnson so she knows I shared with you guys.  I think this is such a huge win for his team and for him!

He didn’t want to go to the after school winter concert even though his class was one of the two classes leading / performing.  Of course, as a kiddo with a high-functioning-autism brain, he works super hard at social skills stuff throughout the day and I have never pushed him to attend after-school activities. When I found out that his class was one of those presenting though, I said that I thought he should tell his teacher he didn't plan to go.  This is the email exchange that ensued.  The first time he has written his teacher, he didn't think he could say it.


Dear Mrs. Johnson,

      I do not want to go to the winter concert because i’ve never gone back to school after I finished it. When I get home I like to play. It isn’t just for this concert, I’ve never gone back for after school activities. There was one time I went back to school for an after school activity at another school and got back later then I liked and it wasn’t enough fun. One time in another class my class was picked to stand on the play structure and lead the school in song. It wasn’t any better then singing it on the ground. I’ve enjoyed practicing with you and have sung the songs at home, but I don’t want to spend extra time at the concert. I am writing this letter so you aren’t counting on me to come.

                                                                                                                                      Most Sincerely,

                                                                                                                                      Cameron Miner


Cameron,

I am very sorry that you will not be at our concert. Sometimes we do things not just because they are fun, but because we are part of a group.  It would be a great thing if you would particiapte in some of these events to support your class.  Think about it.

Take Care,
Ms. Johnson


Dear Ms. Johnson,

I see that you are worried about me supporting my classmates. I will participate in both concerts tomorrow therefore supporting my class. I know it would be more supportive to go today also but my quiet evenings are important rests for me on week days. They help my mind cool down from school and make it much easier to focus on school the next day. I hate going to school with a foggy head and I do try to get my work done well.
                                                                                                                                Most Sincerely,
Cameron Miner

And then I wrote Ms. Johnson:
Thank you so much!  This is a huge growth experience for him!  He has spent at least a half hour each on writing these and trying to take different perspectives.  He has deleted multiple excuses after writing them and then thinking about them.  He has tried to be honest and respectful.  He hasn’t complained once about the time or effort; he clearly considers it time well spent.  He went to sleep yesterday after saying that was a hard letter, that he’d written plenty of thank you notes, but it was harder to write something when you knew the person wasn’t going to like what you said.  I’m deeply appreciative of the learning he feels both motivated and safe to accomplish with you.  Thank you so much!


Cameron is growing and I'm just in a super, happy place observing the giant leaps this shows his in social maturity. I wanted to share my gratitude with you!

Third, we got our tree and got it decorated and had a delightful day with friends.
(It’s definitely a “cute antic” that Cameron wore the giant socks given to him by his gym coach.  Finding the lights turned into a spontaneous attic cleaning as Andrew pushed out tons of boxes and stuff which made our house look like a disaster zone.  I have reclaimed downstairs and a hallway and two closets… there’s more to go.  It is also a good thing that I didn’t break my foot when a 10b container of metal beebees fell on it while I was looking for those lights. Both the tree and my foot are colorful.)







Fourth, Andrew’s birthday was delightful!  The cold didn’t hit until after all the celebrating.

Fifth, our power outage was very brief so Andrew could stay home and take it easy as he worked on beating that icky cold.

Sixth, my holiday craft was completed after Andrew taught me how to use the mandolin.  Crazy shipping costs, but this year’s small gifts were handmade “Christmas in a Jar”. (Pdf appended)

Here’s to a holiday of such delights for each of you,

Rachel

P.S. Cute antics:

• moaning as he came upstairs, "Ohhhh, my belly." (Um, ya, he just ate 5 1/2 cans of lentil soup over one evening.)

• writing this for his literature class, "My computer is like Nat’s Prinicipia.  Its games are as precious as a page of the Principia to me because they’re so fun and exciting. I also bought it with my own money which propels its importance because I spent $500 on it.  My computer is like Nat’s Principia to me.”




(I asked the lady who developed it and she agreed that this could then be strained and honey added for a cozy, tea finale!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday Card and Letter 2014

This year I'm going for the smoother idea of placing our holiday letter online... lots less folding and stuffing.  Here's wishing all our friends and family a glorious holiday season!

Card (click to see larger):



Letter (click to see larger, text below):



Letter Text:

Hello to all our friends and family,
Last year's theme was "we settled” both among the redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains and among the social settings of work / school.  This year’s big adventure was Andrew founding his own start-up, Redwood Labs, and working on bringing his product vision to  life with Graffer.  It’s not there yet, but he gave himself from March 2014- March 2015… we’ll report!  We also welcomed a guide dog puppy, Tracker, to our home from February - November.  He’s back at the guide dog school in training, so we’ll have his outcome to report on in 2015 too!  Now, let us embark on this year's holiday quiz and see how  well you've been keeping up :)
1. This year Cameron turned:
a) eleven and celebrated by fighting pool noodle battles at the park
b) 111 and reminisced about the Model T
c) 1111 and regaled us with tales of his life as a knight templar

2. Andrew left Groupon, began his start-up and:
a) received his yellow belt in a Korean martial art
b) continued his passion for Minecraft building
c) attending the weddings of two close friends
d) tackled the supreme challenge of teaching Cameron both debate skills and proper handwriting
e) decided he hates MINI Coopers or all of the above

3. Cameron has thrived in fifth grade at Vine Hill Elementary and spent time outside of school:
a) advancing to intermediate level gymnastics… boy that boy can flip! 
b) cultivating a passion for Minecraft and Civilization V (video games) and putting his body underneath the guide dog puppy (I must have a hundred pictures of that because he always finished with the demand, “Take a picture!”)
c) passionately listening to audio books, especially the “Eragon” series and “Lord of the Rings”
d)learning how to ride a bike for the first time and trying out scuba diving a second time
e) attending his first overnight camp for two weeks or a through e

4. The Miner Family took a:
a) cruise to Hawaii for holiday relaxing, car ride to Sea Ranch for our annual spring treat and flight to Connecticut for family visiting
b) kayak on the Santa Cruz bay because visiting a kelp forest up close is super cool and sea others super cute
c) break for unscheduled family time for two weeks this holiday season, or a through c

5. Rachel relished parenting, taking an online art class, visiting the ocean with every grocery visit, and extra fun with: 
a) visiting one friend to help with her new baby and being a giddy passenger with another friend who is an awesome, new pilot
b) experiencing her first ride on a gaited horse… so thrilling!  
c) finally getting into using her audible subscription to enjoy tons of literary treasures
d) raising that wonderful guide dog puppy who’d better graduate because she demands  happily-ever-afters for everyone this year or a through d


Happy Holidays

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Touching The Art 201 Presentation... Happily Ever Afters with Art!

I have been having a delightful time taking an art class taught by Luc Travers!  I gave my final presentation tonight and, aside from getting lost once in my notes, it was as smooth and as smiley and as delightful as could be!

I wanted to share it here too to offer more smiles and to advertise Luc's process of learning to gain even more from art.  He's an amazing teacher!



(This was done as a slide show with me talking.  So, I'll put the pictures in groups.  It's definitely smoother as the slide show with lots of side by side pictures and no bolded directions, but I think this does offer the feel.)

Reading:
A woman is walking in the surf.  She is wearing a creamy gauze dress that falls in soft wrinkles around her body and is tied with a wide belt of the same material.  [cut to just her] It’s an old fashioned dress, so this may be a period piece.  (The sailboat in the distance and the make of the houses could support that idea, but it is unclear.) She has her arms raised about her head [cut to head/face shot] and she is looking dreamily down to the right.  The sun is late afternoon or early morning and it touches the edge of her forearm.  One hand is hovering about to touch her hair and the other is holding it back as if she’s remembering a lovely memory, perhaps a tender touch?  Her hair is brown and glowing in the slanting rays. The rays also hit the left side of her face and show smooth, young skin.  What is her expression? She has the faintest hint of a smile.  [cut back to just her] As she gently walks along the beach, we can see the bottom third of her legs has a lovely tan and her toes are obscured by the white of the surf and the rich, brown sand.  [cut to full picture] The ocean waves are mild so this is likely a harbor or sheltered bay, but the color is a deep blue.  Behind her a three masted sail boat is visible, but the hull is already out of site. [Brief view of the country] To her right and perhaps several hundred feet away is a rock wall with green lawns, trees, and few houses, on the other side of it is the ocean.  [Full image] As she meanders, terns fly above her and we can hear their calls and the sound of the gentle surf.  We can feel that sand, the water, the gentle breeze, and the warmth of the sun that mirrors her inner glow.  






She might be thinking, “The surprise party was everything I wished to achieve.” or “I remember when he first said ‘Ma ma’ and today he took his first step.” or “He could not have proposed more beautifully. I’m so in love.” Whatever lovely memory she is relishing, this is a moment of contemplation.  A person ponders a cherished thought. Her reaction is dreamy delight, but young Christopher Columbus has a different reaction. 

In the full statue, Christopher Columbus sits on the pier piling and though his shoulder dips down, we can see in a closer image, his gaze faces out: 




He responds to his cherished thoughts with an intense longing for a potential future, while Surfside (the title of my painting) is reveling in her thought of something past.  Both come to the situation of pondering an important thought, yet their thoughts and reactions differ. 


We’ll actually be looking at three comparisons to illuminate this painting further.  [Picture of Slipper and Rose montage] I’ve been a hopeless romantic ever since I can remember.   My favorite movie growing up was Slipper and the Rose, a glorious version of the Cinderella story. 


So our second comparison, is in this clip. Cinderella has just left the ball.  She is remembering the wonder and joy of a beautiful moment, just as Surfside is: watch clip 




[Stop at 1:30 and put Beautiful Dreamer on the screen.] 

This is definitely a scene with the same feeling of glorying in a beautiful moment. Finally, like Cinderella and Surfside, this lady, Beautiful Dreamer is glowing in pleasant thoughts. 



Here we see a much more fancy lady looking dreamily down at something in her hand… we can see it better here [clip of her hand].  In this statue, a woman pauses, perhaps from a ball? and takes a moment to enjoy the company of the one she wishes were really there. [side by side of just Surfside lady and Beautiful Dreamer] There is the same look down and feeling of a glowing memory that is consuming the full sensory glory of both women.  While the Cinderella clip and Beautiful Dreamer are clearly romantic moments, Surfside only might be.  There are so many opportunities for reveling in beautiful moments and Surfside could reflect any one of them. 



Personal Connection 
Like Anne of Green Gable’s passion of reveling in glorious memories and “flying up on the wings of anticipation” this joyful approach to relishing the beautiful and the happy speaks to me deeply.  [My ocean pictures] One of my favorite places to do this is the ocean where the natural beauty fills me with delight.  It’s a perfect spot for me to find joy in my experiences of the day, week, or more distant past.  Just this morning, I paused between errands under the Eucalyptus trees and walked to the coast. The pelicans were migrating in silent flocks, gliding so smoothly that they seemed to be gently carried onward along the cliffs.  The smell of the sea weed, the tickle of salt in the air, and the  warmth of the morning sun all welcomed me into that place of glowing appreciation.


(The two pictures below were shown in a slide as coming from a thought bubble from the picture above:)



[Surfside and My ocean picture with the thought bubble: wedding, and kiddo] When I look at Surfside,I feel that glow that I feel when I look at a sparkling ocean.  When I look at Surfside I feel that glow that I feel when I cherish a memory of times with my child, like this impromptu snuggle at the park.  When I look at Surfside I feel that glow that I feel so often with tender touches, living happily ever after with the man of my dreams.  Surfside is the only original oil painting I own. I love the moment of glowing, happy reflection that I see in Surfside and I live it often. I live 20 minutes from the ocean now and I make it part of almost every grocery trip… investing in five minute visits again and again to nourish that appreciation of joyful times.  I recognize and respond to that same joy in Surfside.   Here’s to living and relishing happily-ever-afters of every kind!

[Surfside]

And we have some great happily-ever-after finale music:
Play starting at 1:46