Can art change the world?

15 Mar

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JR’s ‘Women are heroes’ project in Favela Providencia, Rio

I haven’t posted for quite some time.  And although this week I wrote two or three drafts to explain why and to start writing again, I just wasn’t happy with any of them.  I was either complaining about how tough it is to be a working Mum, or moaning about how exhausted I am after dealing with illness-after-illness.  And if the last couple of months has taught me anything, it’s that a calm state of mind and a positive attitude is the only way to get through these phases with my sanity, relationship and well everything really, in tact.

So I’m not going to talk about it at all.  Instead I’m only going to focus on the things that make me feel happy, inspired, balanced, calm.  For good.

With that in mind I thought I’d share a video of this man I absolutely love.  He’s one of the most inspiring discoveries I’ve ever made – French Artist, JR.  In this video, which he uses to announce his incredible project – Inside Out, he asks ‘Can art change the world?’

Now since I had Nancy, I see her in the face of every vulnerable person or cat (!) I see.  I can’t help but think of the woman (or mama cat) somewhere out there who thinks about them constantly and whose greatest wish is for them to be safe and happy.  Someone who, like me, wants to believe that the world is a great place; full of love, opportunity and fun that means their child’s future will be great.  That all that is wrong with the world can be fixed.  That people are inherently good, if sometimes a little ignorant or misguided.

TED 2011 TALK – ENGLISH SUBTITLES from SOCIAL ANIMALS on Vimeo.

JR says “Art is not supposed to change the world.  Or practical things.  But to change perceptions.  The fact that art cannot change things makes it a neutral place for exchange and discussion which then enables you to change the world.”

So what this reminds me is that moaning gets you nowhere.  Being angry changes nothing.  In fact, this negative energy is most likely to push people away from you and your issue.  If you really want to change it, channel that energy into something that makes people stop and think.  As JR says ‘what we see changes who we are’.  Art, creativity, ideas draw people in and make them to come to some kind of conclusion on their own.  Don’t be angry, don’t spell it out for people, but appeal to their curiosity and you can make a change.

So now to use Inside Out to change the perceptions around working Mums?!

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The secret to calm (and hilarious) mornings

9 Jan

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I discovered the secret of the universe this morning.  Well actually I discovered something pretty bloody obvious this morning, but it felt like a huge revelation to me.   I discovered that it is possible, with everything that has to happen in the morning just to get everyone to work / childcare, for it to be a chilled and even pretty wonderful time of the day.  To the point where I was able to do the above on the way to work.  I spotted a nice looking bench on Clapham Common and got off my bike and sat on it.  I then opened my current book (Caitlin Moran’s ‘How To Be A Woman’), laughed a lot (I actually laughed on my morning commute – unheard of) before getting back on my bike to cycle to the station.  I was so early for my train that it was sat there waiting for me and offering me a seat.  An actual seat!

How did I manage this?  It was very simple, I got up 30 minutes earlier than usual.  Correction: Nancy woke me up 30 minutes earlier than usual.  I think that due to the sleep deprivation I suffered for most of last year, I’d never considered sacrificing 30 minutes of my now full nights sleep to ease the hecticness of the morning.  ‘Sleep when she sleeps’ is advice I’ve continued to take, even now when I’m actually getting plenty.  Crazy really because what I hate more than anything is being in a rush.  Normally I’d do anything to avoid it.  I’d rather be late than run for a train and get hot, angry and caught between two closing doors.  If I’m rushed I clam up and freak out and am pretty much in a bad mood and good for nothing for the rest of the day.  I’m much calmer, happier and better at things when given sufficient time to do them.

This ‘revelation’ of getting up earlier to take the morning slowly has inspired my ‘word of the year’ – an idea put forward by the always-inspirational Anna at Skin & Blister to give you focus for the year ahead.  I like to think of it as a more focused and sustainable version of a list of resolutions, that can be built upon year after year.  But more on this later…

How to hug

7 Jan

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Yes that’s right, I’ve been practising my hugs!  I hug Nancy all the time, but one night as I hugged and sang to her at bedtime we had this absolutely magical hug.  It felt incredible – all warm and perfect and full of love.  I’ve just wanted to re-create that amazing hug ever since.

The other thing of course, is that now that I’m a Mum, I have to perfect the ‘Mum hug’.  Everyone knows that Mums can hug better than anyone else in the world!  I’m sure that this is a natural thing that happens between two people that care very deeply for each other, but I also like to think that there are things you can do to maximise the chances of a great hug.  Here are my findings having practised my hugs on Nancy and other family members over the Christmas period (!!)

1. Focus on the hug:  Banish all thoughts of anything other than your feelings for that person from your mind.  This hug is gonna show them just how much you care for them – oh yeh, it’s gonna be gooood, and it deserves your full attention.

2. Find the optimum arm position:  Position your arms around your huggee how ever feels natural – this (pretty hilarious) post has some tips on where to position your arms based on if you’re a man or a woman.  Personally I think you should just go for what ever feels right – based on size and comfortability.  Chances are you’ve hugged them before, so you’ll know what to do.

3. Apply a little pressure, but not too much:  This is a big one.  I have a huge issue with hugs that are too strong.  I think the best hugs are ones where both parties are relaxed.  It’s all about tenderness, so relax into the hug and pull them close to you lightly to show how important they are to you.

4. Enjoy that hug: A hug is a very special thing.  For a truly magical hug, it shouldn’t be rushed.  Close your eyes, relax into the hug and hold it for a few seconds.  The length of the hug kinda depends on your environment, the occasion and other external factors.  It that person is having a particularly tough time, you might want to consider giving them a long and tender hug.  Maybe add in a little back rub.  Ooh yeh, that’s good.  But if you’re meeting at a busy bar surrounded by rowdy football fans trying to get a pint, you might want to consider keeping it to a couple of seconds.

This might all sound very obvious, and silly. And it is. But you know what, just giving a little thought to your hugs can mean much better hugs for all involved, which can only be a good thing, right?

Want to try something? Just do it.

3 Jan

I’ve spoken a lot (mainly over here) about how these days it feels as if it’s more possible than ever to learn new things, meet interesting people, explore your passions, set up a business, juggle a number of different projects and roles – that kind of thing.  And that more and more people are taking control of their lives and their careers and just going for it and trying out things they’ve always wanted to.  I think that it is all so wonderfully liberating and inspiring, and I love it.

As we enter 2013 it is of course the perfect time to be thinking about what you might change, learn, try, do in this shiny new, fresh year.  So I’m sharing the blog of a friend-of-a-friend of mine who last year went on a bit of a journey to identify what she’d like to learn, then went off and learnt it and has subsequently set up a business doing that thing part-time.  So head over to the post below for some lovely New Year inspiration.

Stocktaking

Yellow knickers for a ¡Feliz ano nuevo!

30 Dec

ImageI’ve never been more excited about spending New Year’s Eve at home as I am this year, as we’ll be celebrating Mexican style!  Complete with delicious food that couldn’t be less like Christmas dinner (thank goodness), plenty of rum and tequila, cut paper decorations and a few of the bonkers rituals the Mexicans practise.  Which is why I need to find some yellow knickers.  Where do I find yellow knickers in the Dulwich area before tomorrow evening?  A tricky one that, but I must find them because according to our Mexican friends, I won’t be granted my wish for 2013 of happiness and prosperity without them!

Mexico is the perfect place to look for New Years Eve inspiration because everything about Mexico is just FUN and bright and beautiful.  We were there a couple of years ago and totally fell in love with its warmth, colour, music and creativity, and we found the Mexican people to be friendly, relaxed and delightfully resourceful.  We were there just after Día de los Muertos, so we missed the celebrations, but one night we went to a wonderful restaurant in Tulum which was in the owner’s garage.  She’d decorated it with cut paper-bag lanterns, sugar skull skeletons, paper chains and battered old furniture.  Eating our dinner in a garage by candlelight whilst being watched over by a trio of guitar-playing skeletons was both cosy and fascinating at the same time.  The food was exceptional too and the whole experience perfectly reflected the friendly, laid-back, handmade, rich and creative Mexican culture.

Having looked into how the Mexicans celebrate New Year I thought I’d share it on – they really are a bonkers lot!

Traditions and rituals

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Papel Picado is the Mexican folk art of paper-cutting.  The colourful, intricate designs are traditionally cut into tissue paper using a variety of tools including scissors, chisels and hole-punches.  They are made to celebrate religious festivals and national holidays and can be hung on string to create banners, turned into lanterns, napkins, tablecloths and so on.  Here’s a simple how-to to follow to make a colourful banner.

Colour of Decorations.  Just in case the knickers fail to work (!) people in Mexico people make decorations in the colour that reflects their wish for the year ahead:

Red: General improvement in lifestyle and love
Yellow: Blessings of improved employment conditions
Green: Improved financial circumstances
White: Improved health

The Twelve Grapes is a Spanish tradition that dates back to at least 1895.  The Spanish, Mexicans and other Latin American countries eat a grape with each bell strike at midnight to bring prosperity in the New Year.  Mexicans make a wish with every grape and each grape represents a different month of the year – get a sweet grape and it’ll be a good month, get a sour grape and it’ll be a bad one.  I’m going to give this a go but have to admit I am worried I won’t be able to think of wishes and eat so quickly, especially after a few too many drinks, but we’ll see!

To banish all negative energy Mexicans like to write a list of all the bad things that happened in the previous year and ceremonially burn it before midnight arrives.

Taking the suitcase for a walk.  An obvious one this?!  Mexicans can be found taking an empty suitcase for a walk at midnight to represent the distance to be travelled in the new year.

Sweep in good fortune.  Others will open their front door at midnight and sweep out the previous year, then drop coins outside and sweep them in for prosperity in the new year.

Food and Drink

Mexicans traditionally have a late dinner with family to celebrate the New Year. Bacalao is the staple New Year meal in Mexico – a dried salted codfish.

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Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings cake) is a Mexican sweet bread that is generally baked in the New Year in preparation for the Epiphany on 6th January.  It symbolises both the crowns of the Three Kings and God’s unending love.  They bake a charm or a tiny figure of baby Jesus into it and the person who finds the charm is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2, Candlemas Day. In the Mexican culture, this person also has to throw a party!

Ponche Con Piccante is a hot, spiced cider that is traditionally drunk on New Year.  Sounds yum to me.

We’re going to mix this up with a few Mexican faves such as pulled pork, tacos and of course, churros!  I’ll post some pics afterwards.  ¡Feliz ano nuevo! may all your New Year wishes come true.

29 Dec

WordPress looks at blogging in 2012, featuring some delightfully inspiring blog-based projects.

The WordPress.com Blog

At the end of November, we gave shout-outs to bloggers and artists who participated in month-long projects like NaBloPoMo and NaNoDrawMo. As 2012 comes to a close, we also want to highlight writers and photographers who challenged themselves all year — who posted each day or each week, or have established an ongoing project on their sites.

These bloggers caught our attention:

JUMP FOR JOY! Photo Project

An inspiring international project focused on play, fun, and the positive in our lives, JUMP FOR JOY! presents Eyoälha Baker’s vision of a world united by our expression of joy. Eyoälha has taken nearly all the images on her blog — with the exception of the photos of her. Her jumping subjects are captured in locations around the world: at the beach in Kauaiat a park in Vancouver, or even between city skyscrapers . . . while holding a ninja…

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One day ‘working from home’ with a one year old

21 Dec

Illness and childcare misunderstandings massively screwed with the last two weeks and meant that we’ve had to look after Nancy ourselves for  five days when we needed to be at work.  This has involved a lot of ‘working from home’ – an interesting idea for someone who has a sick, needy and inquisitive little explorer in their care.  Here’s how it went:

Hmm, following a one year old up the stairs around maybe 10 times (not because we needed to go up the stairs, but for fun!) wasn’t exactly on my to-do list today.

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Ahh ok, well we’re upstairs now.  I’ll just work wherever she decides to play.  Should be cool…and this feeding chair is way more comfortable than my swivel chair at work.  Snowy, keep an eye on Nancy will you?  Thanks.

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Exhausted all play options in the nursery – we’re now in Nancy’s favourite room in the house.  Her favourite because it’s full of her favourite things – bottles, pots and tubes.  Wasn’t quite expecting her to find her fun actually inside the shower, but what the hell she’s happy, and I can hardly talk – I’m sat on the loo sending an email (lid down).

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She soon got bored of sucking shampoo bottles in the shower and headed into our bedroom.  Ahh this is more like it, the comfort of my own bed – where better to work?  Meanwhile Nancy is happy looking at her own reflection.  And leaving evidence of her cold behind on the mirror.  Nice.

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Having explored all rooms upstairs, it’s now time to bomp* down the stairs and hang out in the living room.  It was at this point that Nancy and Duck no.1 decide to work out what’s so interesting about the bright, shiny box that I’ve been carrying around, in some kind of laptop ambush which almost led to the deletion of a table I’d been working on since the bathroom.

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At the end of a long hard day of attempted work, cooking, cleaning and cuddles, I realise I’ve not eaten and decide to walk around the corner to the pub for a burger, where it becomes clear that working from home means that even my lime and soda gets a dose of Nancy.

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Conclusion:  I’m a big fan of working in different environments, mixing things up a bit.  But if I’m honest I prefer a cafe, the library or the park where you can go about your business without a small person wrapping their arms around your legs so you can’t move, giving you a face full of yogurt or pressing all the buttons on your laptop.  Yeh I managed to get a fair amount done while she was playing and I crammed work and calls in during her naps, but if I’d been really under it, as I often am, this would not have worked at all.  Don’t be fooled, working from home with a bubba ain’t cool.

* Bomping:  A term made up by my own mother to describe sitting on your Mum’s lap while you bounce together from one stair to the next to get to the bottom. ‘Tis fun and quite frankly the only way to descend the stairs.