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At the Eric Carle Museum

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Art: Hilary Knight
Eloise was a favorite of mine back in the day. Art and artifacts related to her history are on display until June 4, 2017, at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass.

I drove out to Amherst yesterday to meet up with Asakiyume at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and have lunch in town. The museum is modern and attractive and features several nice displays, a gift shop, and a studio where kids can do arts and crafts.

If you don’t have another reason to be in the area, as I did, it’s a little far from the Boston suburbs. However, I got a kick out of my tour with Asakiyume, especially because one exhibit was on Hilary Knight, the artist behind the mischievous girl who lives in New York’s Plaza Hotel with her nanny, her pet dog, and her turtle. The display even featured copies of the doll I still have and my Eloise Hotel Emergency Kit.

We saw art by Brinton Turkle and, of course, by Eric Carle. It’s the 50th anniversary of Carle’s book Brown Bear, and it was fun to see all the ways it had been translated. Asakiyume knew how to read the Japanese.

She also picked up a flyer for me about the museum’s “Making Art” blog, which turns out to be loaded with ideas about crafts for kids. Something to check out in addition to Pinterest when brainstorming. In one project example, here, we see how a student intern went about creating a delightful day for both children and adults using feathers in art.

Photo: Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
The Art Studio’s J-Term Intern, Tory Fiske, a senior at UMass Amherst, designed a Special Sunday project for museum guests.  She planned the event, sorted and prepared the materials, and introduced visitors to the project throughout the day.

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Here’s a bonus post for you, Dear Reader, from blogger Misty Meadows. Good timing as the snow melts and you think about starting your garden. The eggshell planters are adorable! Love, SuzannesMom

Misty Meadows Homestead & more!

About this time, every year, my heart starts to tire of the winter weather I cherish so much–I doubt there are many who appreciate snow as much as I do.  It’s still a little early for starting seeds, at least here in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8a.  Having grown in zones 8b & 5-6, we are very excited to see what this new zone has in store for us.

Over the past few weeks, our mailbox has been filling up with a delightful assortment of seed catalogs.  They are always so much fun to look through.  My favorites are Territorial Seeds and Baker Creek Seeds.  The Baker Creek Catalog is gorgeous and is more like a coffee table book.

If by chance you are ready for spring, over the next few weeks, we will be giving you some tips to get your 2017 garden off to a great start!…

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Crafts for a Cause

I’ve followed countertenor Terry Barber’s Artists for a Cause for several years. He lines up musicians who, like him, believe in the importance of sometimes donating their talents to a worthy cause. I heard him perform in Rhode Island (check this 2011 post).

Lately, I stared wondering whether other sorts of artists and craftsmen were doing this sort of thing. So I Googled “crafts for a cause” and discovered that someone had used those very words to name a website:

“In 1975, Hetty Friedman first traveled to the Highlands of Guatemala to learn back strap weaving from a Mayan weaver. After that time, Guatemala entered a period of intense political unrest. Thirty two years later, Hetty was able to return. In partnership with Asociación Maya de Desarrollo, a Fair Trade Weaver’s Coop, she is designing unique woven products, training weavers and leading tours. Together they produce a line of hand dyed, hand woven items that are being marketed in the USA.”

Regarding her tours: “Adventurous travelers are provided with a unique exploration of the Guatemala Highland pueblos, Antigua, a Unesco World Heritage City, and visits to various artists and fair trade jewelry and weaving co-ops. Join Hetty on an intimate tour of Guatemala’s fabulous cultural heritage. Lots of guacamole gets eaten.

“Small group travel for women. Meet Mayan artisans, visit Antigua, a Unesco Heritage site, and travel on Lake Atitlan. Great food, wonderful hotels and good company.

“Call 617-512-5344 or email hetty.friedman@gmail.com for details. Contact us to get put on the list for 2018 travel.”

From the nonprofit that Hetty is supporting, “The objective of Asociación Maya de Desarrollo is not to just provide an income for families in post-conflict communities. Asociación Maya also aims to provide an opportunity for women harmed by the war to become leaders in the cooperative, their homes, their communities, and of the Mayan tradition.”

I am filled with admiration.

More at Hetty Friedman Designs, here.

Photo: Hetty Friedman Designs
Weaver Hetty Friedman says, “It all started at age 13 when I took a weaving class at summer camp. It was like a miracle to me.”

Photo: Montgomery County, Maryland, Library

Do you attend a congregation where the children’s “sermon” is given in front of the adults? My husband was recalling the other day how the pastor at our former Rhode Island church was really great with children’s sermons. He was both funny and straightforward. Where we go in Massachusetts, the children’s sermon sometimes plays to the adults too much. But other times it works — especially when the children get to use props and act it out.

I kind of liked this one about different ways of seeing. I’d be interested in what you think.

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Whose Reality Is It Anyway?
By Orlanda R Brugnola

It was not a city. It was not a large town. But it was not a small town. It was — just average, you might say. Except for one thing. There was a Storyteller in the town.

That’s Storyteller with a capital S. The Storyteller had arrived one day without advance notice (or as some people would put it, without warning.) There had been no invitation, no request.  The Storyteller just showed up, rented a small house that had been empty for two years and put up a sign inviting people to come and listen to stories.

Mind you, that was not so easy for people in the town.  They were nervous about it and wanted to know wanted to know if the Storyteller was qualified. They wanted to know if the Storyteller was accredited. They wanted to know if the Storyteller was male or female. The children didn’t care of course. … On any afternoon you could be sure that most, if not all the children in town were at the Storyteller’s house.

And so the Storytelling began. The Storyteller might say: “In the smoking tiger’s time” …

“Wait a minute! What do you mean?!”

“Oh, that’s just the way stories begin in Korea: ‘In the smoking tiger’s time’ is just a way of saying: ‘Long, long ago’ ” … And the Storyteller would continue …

All the children and youth listening to the stories wanted to listen forever because the stories made them feel amazed and happy.  And they wanted to share their amazement and happiness with the rest of their families, so they asked the Storyteller if they could take part of the story home with them and the answer was always “Yes, of course!” and so they did.

[Here the children act out taking wondrous things home and finding that the tiger, the mossy rock, the mountain, etc. make their parents apprehensive.]

The children [said] to the Storyteller, “Our moms and our dads won’t let us bring anything home from the stories. … Can you do something?” …

And then something began happening in the town that got everybody talking. Things started showing up in unexpected places — sometimes very unexpected places. A big tree right in the middle of the street.  And then a tiger in front of a garage. And a huge blue mountain at the front door of a house. …

Because the mayor was up for election in a week or so, he said, “I will personally take care of this immediately!” And he marched right over to the Storyteller’s house and knocked on the door.  …

“This has got to STOP!” said the mayor. … “All these things that are showing up everywhere … Today I couldn’t even get into my own house because there was a mountain in front of the door!”

“Why don’t you just go through it? … It’s a story-mountain. … All you have to do is enter the story,” [said a voice.] …

“Maybe I should talk to an expert about this!” [the mayor] thought.  He liked experts.  …

“Why don’t you tell, me about it,” the [expert] said. And so the mayor did. …

“Why did you decide not to enter the story as the Storyteller suggested?” …

“I got angry and didn’t want to. … I’m kind of afraid, though I don’t know what I am afraid of.” …

“New things are unsettling and most of us are reluctant to jump in.”…

“How do we know we will like how the story ends?” [asked the mayor].

“Well, that’s really in our hands.  All of us who enter the story decide how it will turn out.” …

“The mayor thought about it some more and decided that maybe the [expert] was right and that he ought to go back to the Storyteller and find out how to get into the story after all.”

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We often joke that our dear UUs explain everything too much. But this sermon must be the exception that proves the rule. See the full children’s story at the UUA website, here.

Maria Toorpakai is the top-ranked female squash player in Pakistan. Toorpakai is coached by retired Canadian squash star Jonathon Power, pictured here.

WBUR’s Only a Game is great at searching out fascinating sports stories that few media channels cover. Here is one about a female squash player bucking the odds in a conservative part of Pakistan, where girls just don’t do this kind of thing.

Karen Given reports, “There are places in this world where games aren’t just games and where sports heroes have the power to be more than just pixels on a television screen.

“One of those places is Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s tribal region. That’s where Maria Toorpakai grew up. Her sport was squash, and her hero was Jonathan Power — a Canadian who, in 1999, became the first North American squash player to become No. 1 in the world.

“From an early age, Toorpakai wasn’t like the other girls.

” ‘When I was two years old, I could see the happiness in boys’ faces and more glow. But most of the women are just no one, you know? …

” ‘I thought maybe it’s the differences because boys have different clothes than girls. So then I took all my girly dresses and I took it to the backyard and I burnt them, and I was four-and-a-half. I saw my father and he didn’t say anything but when I looked at him he just smiled and said, “Well, I guess I have a fifth son now.” ‘

“Toorpakai’s father allowed her to masquerade as a boy and play sports. But when she discovered squash at the age of 12, the family’s secret began to unravel.

” ‘There’s a proper squash academy and he took me there. And he asked what we should do for squash, and my son wants to play squash. The director of the squash academy, he said definitely we will give membership to this kid. You have to bring the birth certificate first. My father got a little nervous.’

“Maria Toorpakai tells her story In Her Own Words. To hear the full story, click [this page] the play button below the headline at the top of the page. Toorpakai’s book is called ‘A Different Kind of Daughter.’ ”

I really recommend becoming familiar with WBUR’s Only a Game, here. It’s syndicated nationally, and non-sports fans love it as much as sports fans.

Longtime host Bill Littlefield is an unusual sports maven. An English professor, he covers football but especially how it hurts athletes, and he has instituted an approach to interviews (like Toorpakai’s) in which a talented interviewer (like Karen Givens) asks probing questions that enable interviewees to tell their own story. The interviewer’s voice doesn’t appear. I love this idea. It sounds so natural.

The Accidental Caregiver

After 46 years of marriage, I can say I have a husband who is the same guy he always was, just with more life experience. But among my small circle of friends, including my blog friends, many women are dealing with extraordinary changes.

It may be true that, overall, women are as likely to develop dementia as men (see study) and present their husbands with unexpected caregiving challenges, but so far those stories are not the ones I’m hearing.

A college friend married to a brilliant scientist who has known for some time he was developing Alzheimer’s recently told me, “I finally realized he is completely dependent on me.” She is biting the bullet, reaching out for more helpers and planning an altered future.

Another friend whose husband has dementia made the decision to leave behind all her East Coast activities and relocate to Minnesota, where there is a network of family members. She intends to keep her husband in their new home, which has become a safe place in his mind. When her husband no longer recognizes anyone at all, she says, she will get full-time care, move herself out, and come visit him.

I reconnected last month with a high school friend who suffered a bitter divorce decades ago. She told me her ex’s wealthy girlfriend has been able to provide high-quality care for him for the 15-plus years since he was diagnosed with dementia. Although the divorce is still raw enough that there are topics my friend can’t discuss with her children, she goes to the Alzheimer’s facility regularly to read to her ex. She wants to become a better person.

Dementia has not been the only challenge for women I know. In one case, after a relative discovered her husband’s multiyear dalliance with a blackmailing call girl (and he then suffered a physical and emotional collapse), the wife made heroic efforts to rebuild the shattered relationship. A year later, they are both enjoying life together a little more every day.

Then there is the friend whose husband’s rare disease progressed to the point that he can no longer be left alone. She has had friends come in for an hour or two so she can shop for groceries and walk the dog, but the cost of a few hours coverage from a trained home-health-care aide has to be parceled out frugally as this friend has lost one income, is trying to build a home-based career, and needs to pay for two children’s colleges.

I can’t say enough about how much I admire these women who are rising to meet unanticipated disruption despite their sorrow and fear.

Art: William Utermohlen
In 1995, U.K.-based artist William Utermohlen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He created a series of self-portraits over five years, before his death in 2007. (Caution: This is the first in the series. The others may be painful.)

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Photo: SWNS
Annis Lindkvist, right, and her younger sister, Emma Åhlström, with Jimmy Fraser, a homeless Scot they invited for Christmas in Sweden. 

I have never been sure how to react to someone who is homeless, but I have learned smiling is better than walking past, head down.

Mother Teresa said to smile. A woman who runs an excellent Rhode Island homeless agency told me she doesn’t give anyone money but talks to people and tries to see if she can help with a referral or something to eat. A formerly homeless veteran told me he always talks to veterans and tells them where to find veterans services. Once he took in a stranger overnight. Some people will buy a sandwich or a cup of coffee.

Last week as I was talking to an employee of a refugee agency, I became curious about how he was led to his current work. He said, “One day I stopped walking past people.”

He didn’t initially look for refugee work, but he landed there after launching his personal outreach to homeless people and a subsequent stint in Americorps. He used to talk to people on the New York City streets, asked what they needed and delivered food, socks, and as many of their needs as he could.

So many good people out there showing kindness one person at a time!

This Guardian story about a Swedish tourist in Scotland who not only befriended a homeless man but invited him for Christmas with her family (and sent him airfare) is really over the top.

Libby Brooks writes, “A homeless man from Edinburgh has described the ‘incredible act of kindness’ of a tourist who invited him to spend Christmas at her family home in Sweden.

“Jimmy Fraser was begging on George Street in the city centre when Annis Lindkvist and her sister Emma, from Sagmyra in central Sweden, asked him for directions.

“They struck up a friendship and swapped numbers at the end of the trip, staying in touch by text before Lindkvist offered to pay for his flights so he could spend a week with her family over the festive period.

“Fraser, who became homeless following his divorce 13 years ago, said: ‘It’s weird, I know. I was begging on George Street and these two women came up to me and the next thing I knew I was in Sweden. People promise you things all the time on the street but they never materialise.

” ‘But I thought I’m going to go for it as it’s once in a lifetime. I couldn’t believe it anyway at first. People tell you “see you tomorrow, I’ll get you a drink” and then nothing happens. But this did happen, actually, so it was really weird.’

“The 54-year-old former security guard, who went to an ice hockey match, Christmas markets and midnight mass with his host’s family and friends, told the BBC News website: ‘It was a beautiful experience.’ …

“Lindkvist described her own doubts about issuing such an open invitation to a stranger. ‘We give money to charity every month but we have never done anything like this before,’ she said. ‘There were friends and family who thought I was really crazy, but I just opened my home to him and said everything that is ours was his too.’

“The 37-year-old, who works with dementia sufferers, said she had invited Fraser back to stay with the family again over the Easter break, and that he was ‘part of the family now.’ ”

More here.