Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Paying It Forward at Christmas

            I was talking with my family last week about a cool idea I read on a blog—a ‘paying it forward’ sort of thing. The idea is to either decide on acts of kindness to do each day for a couple weeks leading up to Christmas, or to let a situation present itself each day, and to follow through to show another human being extra kindness in this season.
            Sometimes I struggle with feeling ‘Grinchy’ during the holidays. I want the holidays to be meaningful, but what does that mean and how do I do it? I often become  too focused on my wants, my agenda, my to-do list, the next place I have to be, and on and on. I feel overwhelmed and unable to enjoy the season. I want my kids to experience the joy of giving to others, but I have to set that example. How do I even start?
            The premise is simple. Seek out ways to give freely to others, often strangers, this holiday season.  One of the ideas I read was to buy a gift card to the store that you’re in when you check out—it can be just $5—and then either give it to someone as you’re leaving the store or stick it under someone’s windshield wiper.
How cool would that be? What about this—pay for the person behind you in the coffee shop line. Tip the barista extra big. Spend time with an elderly neighbor who craves company. Bake cookies and leave them on someone’s doorstep with a note. Handwrite a note to someone who meant a lot to you growing up and tell them.
      Teach a child something you wish someone had taught you (or did teach you) when you were a kid.  Donate stuff you don’t want or need to a local charity. Donate food to a food pantry. Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk after a snow.  Babysit for a single mom or dad. Hide quarters in a vending machine change slot. Compliment people freely. Wish the driver who cut you off well. Let go of a grudge.
            I’m on a roll but also out of space. We plan to brainstorm ideas and make a list. Getting stuff isn’t just what a good life is made of, it’s being good to each other however we can.  Merry Christmas!

Hippies hoop with fire

I just have to share—I got to do something last weekend that I thought was pretty sweet—hoop with fire.  You may be thinking, ‘Hooping? Fire? What?’
            Even though it’s becoming more well-known, hooping, or hoopdance, is still pretty obscure.  I hear over and over again adults saying that ‘they can’t hoop’ and thinking it’s only for kids. Nope! I love to coax people into trying it, and I love it when they get hooked, or at least have a dang good time for those few minutes.
            So I’ve been hooping for a few years now, and looking back I can see how much it’s stretched me and how much I’ve progressed, and how many people I’ve met through it. It’s been a wild ride.
            And last Saturday night it got a whole lot wilder.
            I’ve been wanting to fire hoop almost since I started hooping. I let people know that I would firehoop someday and I was patient, knowing it would happen. Finally, it did. My friend Rebecca, queen-of-all-things-circus was up in Indy for the weekend and arranged to teach a fire safety workshop and take us would-be-fire-hoopers on the fire hooping ride with her.
            We were nervous and a little jittery, not really knowing what to expect other than we’d be spinning a flaming hoop around our bodies. ‘What if we catch on fire?’ was a thought that ran through our minds more than once.
            Before we knew it, we were intentionally catching ourselves on fire. Rebecca had us swipe flames on ourselves and then put them out, to help take away the fear of being on fire and to see that if it happened, we could stay calm and take care of it.
            So, we jumped in and fire hooped. And it was amazing. We can’t stop talking about it, so there’s a good chance that there’ll be more fire hooping in the ‘ville.
            All this to say, whether it’s fire hooping in our case, or whatever you dream of, do whatever you can to make it happen. Life’s short, live it up!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Go local to lose the holiday loco

I’m not sure how it can be November already, and already everywhere I turn I see the glossy Christmas ads and hear about Black Friday.
            If you know anything about me, you can probably guess that I’m not a fan of Black Friday and in fact refuse to shop on that day. From my eco-friendly perspective, the extreme consume-consume-consume mentality that our culture fosters leaves in its wake a tremendous amount of waste.  After Christmas, garbage cans will overflow with wrapping, with boxes, with plastic shrinkwrap, and the discards that are ‘so last year.’       
            Will anyone be the happier for it? 
            There is also that ‘waste’ that is less obvious—the time spent driving to and from the stores, the gas used to get there, the time spent looking and in line, and likely a huge amount of money spent on things that aren’t wanted or needed.
            I don’t like a lot of stuff, and clutter makes me twitchy. However, I live in a house with five other people, so I have had to learn to deal somewhat. More ‘stuff’ to deal with = not fun for Mom. Last year we got our kids art lessons, along with a few clothes and a few toys and books.
It was a great balance. No one was overwhelmed by heaps of stuff, we paid cash all the way, and we supported local businesses.  And of course, I recycled all the packaging and wrapping (I use newspaper, kraft paper and aluminum foil. I also like to use cute fabric bags—even better!).
            This year I plan to do the same. It’s a conscious decision to turn away from the marketing, from the greedy culture that always wants the next big thing. I’ll shop the independent stores, eat at the independent restaurants, and support the local artisans. They are numerous here in and around our town, and as an independent artist myself I was so grateful that people bought gifts from me. I can’t think of a better way to spend my holiday dollars.

Friday, November 4, 2011

We are the grasshoppers

             I’ve had the nagging question in my mind for awhile now—just how essential is it that I do what I do? Why do I spend time and energy writing what I do? Why do I spend an hour playing in my hoop when I could/should be doing something ‘more productive’? When I’m driven to create, what does it even matter, really?
 I’ve lived in Noblesville for over a decade now, which in and of itself blows my mind. It was a fluke that we even landed here, lured by a real estate ad in the Indy Star one lazy Sunday. It was as though, in brief moment of perusing the ads we decided it was time to buy a house, and since the old house listing we ‘fell in love with’ was in Noblesville (wherever that was) we decided this was ‘it’ and fell in love with this town, too.
            I thought back to this after attending the recent launch party of Noblesville’s first literary journal, The Polk Street Review. My husband and I walked from our house to the party, which was held at our friends’ lovely home just a few blocks from ours. The wide, shallow front steps led to the inviting wraparound porch. The tables of libations beckoned me and I poured some wine and said hello to our Old Town friends gathered on the porch in the crisp, cool air.
            The rooms were full of chairs and people, the light was welcoming and I was aware of the satisfying click of my brown boots on the oak floors. Of course, I also noticed the table of delicious food and made that my second stop.
            I’m so glad to live in this town, and that night full of readings and creative energy and laughter is one of my best memories of living here. I’m always so inspired by the talented people here who create—not for glory or money or recognition but because they love to and they want and need to. The final reading of the night, The Ant and The Grasshopper, answered my nagging question.
            “Work is important. But play, and discussion, and love of non-essential things is also important. We are the grasshoppers and we are necessary. Long live the grasshopper!” (Introduction to The Polk Street Review)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The 'ville is good, but could be great

I’ve tackled controversial topics in this column before, indeed.
            I’ve always shied away from writing about politics, however. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe because I know how divisive it can be, and in general I don’t feel qualified to discuss matters that seem way beyond my scope of understanding.
            I’m not apathetic though. My parents’ words echo in my head every time an election comes around, “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.” I always head to the polls.
            Well, I’m writing about politics now, and not because I have delved into matters of tax abatements and TIF districts and have any insights there, but there are some things that I have observed.
            We were happy to put our two cents in when the city hired a firm to garner citizen input and put together a strategic plan for downtown. We’d given our ideas as to what we’d like to see and we had this vision dangling before us of what Noblesville could be. A Riverwalk? More walkability and more diversity of shops downtown?  More public spaces, trails, and ooh, how about a theater to replace the ones (yes, multiple) that were torn down once upon a time in favor of parking lots?  The plan was put together and…nothing happened. This was in 2005, and downtown still pretty much looks the same.
            I’m concerned about the unprecedented Positron deal. $7 million given to a company called Positron, currently already based in Fishers, so that they would build a facility in Noblesville. $7 million. That could have gone a long way toward a parking garage or two and a downtown theater, both things that would have enhanced downtown and met needs for the public sector.
I have several friends new to Indiana and to Noblesville that have expressed their disappointment in our lack of voting pool diversity here.  One said to me, “I’m used to having a large pool to pick from either party. Not having that can’t promote true democracy.”
With the election coming up in two weeks, I’m thrilled there is an actual mayoral race. You’ve probably seen the signs around town, ‘Mike Corbett for Mayor.’
You can check out Mike’s website, www.mikecorbettformayor.com to read about his positions. Most important, make your voice heard on November 8. You can even vote prior to Election Day by going to the Election Office at the Judicial Center downtown. 

Pieces of You

(from Sept. exhibit at HEPL)

            With only three days left in the month (where did September go?), I recommend that you make a point to visit the library to see the Art exhibit Pieces of You. This collaborative Art project was made possible by Kandi Jamieson of Arthouse and her students at Cicero Adventist Elementary and Indiana Academy.
            Stapled onto the curved wall, you will see 2,947 small plastic bags, each containing a small object. These comprise a memorial representing all of those that died ten years ago on 9/11. On the anniversary of 9/11, amid a flurry of facebook questions and status updates asking and answering ‘where were you?,’ I stayed quiet.
            Where was I? I was safe in my tiny house, hundreds of miles from the horrors. I didn’t lose anyone I loved. I didn’t personally have to grieve the loss of a husband, a child, a friend. I didn’t know anyone that was there.
            The exhibit is poignant in its simplicity—ranging from items as common and mundane as a twist-tie or candy wrapper to a tiny dog biscuit to a crocheted flower. “Each item represents a person like you and me,” Jamieson said.
            “It’s ironic because all these items can be found in the junk drawer at some point, and just like the junk drawer where items are lost and forgotten, we’ve taken them out and put them on display to remember. I wanted to find a way we could connect it to our personal life.”
            After September, the exhibit will be on display at Arthouse, 195 S. 10th Street, Noblesville.

Be Open Minded--Arthouse

(this also wasn't published, but hey, I'll blog it, too)

Art Teachers Billy and Kandi Jamieson of Arthouse recently wrapped up a Graffiti and Mural painting class, where the end result was a collaboration of ideas and designs painted onto a vintage VW bus.
Often graffiti is painted without permission, but “it’s also a style,” Kandi Jamieson said.  “In the class, we went through the whole history of it.  Graffiti art is a way to make political statements. Kids have something to say. Let’s allow them to speak their mind—they need a voice.”
The Jamiesons juxtaposed the concepts of graffiti and murals together in the class, allowing students to contribute ideas and collaborate on the design for the bus.  “We had to compromise and even agree to disagree sometimes.
One of the phrases that was painted on the bus, Be Open Minded, “really captured it,” Kandi said. “Even for adults who see graffiti art around, for them to be open minded and ask ‘why are kids doing this?’”
“Have we given them the opportunity to speak their mind and a place to create art? That’s what we want to do here.”
The Jamiesons plan to continue offering the Mural and Graffiti classes, and hope to do some inside murals in the colder months.  Stop by Arthouse at 195 S. 10th Street, visit www.arthousenoblesville.blogspot.com or call 773.0038 for class schedules.

Photo cutline: “Billboards are all over and right in your face, why can’t art be like that?” Kandi Jamieson, who wants to see more public art in Noblesville.

Historic Home Tour—be there or be square

(this wasn't published in CIN, but since I wrote it I thought I would at least blog it)

I lived in downtown Noblesville for four years before I ever went on the Home Tour. I was so enchanted that I immediately volunteered our home for the next year’s tour (seriously). I’ve been involved with the Noblesville Preservation Alliance (NPA) ever since.
This year’s tour will be extra special with so many great complementary events, which you can read about in the cover story. I love the stories woven into this town’s fabric and I had a great time learning more about the stories of those who’ve lived here for years.
Storyteller Elizabeth (Betty) Gerrard plans to be at one of the homes dressed in costume. Gerrard, who has lived in the same home in Noblesville for the past sixty-five years would like to share with tourgoers some of the changes she’s seen.
            She recalls that there was only one stoplight in town when she moved to Noblesville in the 1940’s, and she has vivid memories of Gran’pa’s Candy Store, featured as a Point of Interest on the Tour this year.
Dottie Young shared her experience being on the very first home tour in 1986. “Carol Karst-Wasson talked me into it,” Dottie said. “I was teaching full time in Indy and raising Emily Young Compton, now the tour chair. I think I had just gotten out of the shower as the first guests started coming in (Tom Bond and his wife).”
Now here I learned something else—the Bonds parked their antique car in front of the Young’s house. When you realize that the Young’s live on Conner street, wow! There was parking right on Conner Street.
Dottie recalls over 500 guests that first year. (We can top that this year). “The tour started right on the heels of moving the Craig House. That was a fabulous day, watching that huge house roll across Conner,” Dottie said. “This history gives us a sense of place, a touchstone to know where we are to consider how this town would look without its centerpiece.”
Jill Hutchinson is another avid tourgoer. “I love it when the volunteers have a story about the home or there are pictures of the original owners and you get a small view of the past. That's my favorite but what's not to love? You get to walk around our beautiful town and see great decorating ideas.”
I hope to see you September 17. www.noblesvillepreservation.com

Still spinning the circle, seeing where it takes me (sept. 20)

Last weekend I participated in a Neighborhood Block Party in downtown Indy. Windsor Park is a historic neighborhood on the near east-side, near Chatham Arch and Mass Ave. It was a beautiful Saturday, the cold and rain that was predicted and that populated the previous week never materialized. We were so grateful for the sun that warmed our damp bones.
I brought my six year old hooper and helper, Lily, and we set up our ‘hoop booth,’ having brought community hula hoops for the party goers to hoop to the live music. Lily became immediate friends with a girl her age who lives in the neighborhood, and kids and adults gravitated to the hoops we’d brought.
Two of the girls became so enamored with the hoops that they ended up spinning them for hours. They got so good that I challenged them to a race. We ran, with the hoops spinning around our waists, to the Food Truck parked a few houses down. (I’m proud to say I won. Three times.)
One girl told me it was the best party she’d ever been to, because “I’ve never been around such cool stuff.”
And in this little neighborhood miles from Noblesville, I even saw people that I knew. Kay Grimm and Sue Spicer have an incredible story. They live not far from Windsor Park and have purchased vacant city lots and turned them into heirloom gardens—Fruit Loop Acres. I had met Kay and Sue earlier this year—in Noblesville at a house concert—and I was and am captivated by their work and their passion.
And, two days after this I got invited to perform with my LED hoop at a launch party next month.  The hoop has taken me to amazing places. The circle keeps getting bigger and bigger. It’s an incredible life.