Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Creation: Something from Nothing

They say that procreation is the ultimate act of creation. We have created a Being. A spirit brought to form. Whether we did this, or it was already done via God's will or karma or destiny, we have a child. Sprung from my loins, or in this case air-lifted from my belly, our child is born. The mutation of egg and sperm, cell and hormone, blood and tissue, flesh and bone is so outstanding, if it weren't so common and ordinary one would think it magic.

So too is the act of creating, well, anything. Making something from nothing. Blank page, blank canvas, blank track, parcel of dirt, empty plate. The process of inspiration into thought into plan into action becomes creation. Something from nothing. I know a little bit about this.

In the beginning, I used my innocence, my trust, my expression to communicate and create.

Then as I developed, I found my art. I used my body, the dance and the dancer, both real and perceived, literally and figuratively.

And when that faded, I used my voice, my music, my songs to tell my story, to evoke a feeling, to create something from nothing.

I also used food, as a chef, as both an expression of love and a way to survive. Both high art and commerce, but just as disposable a medium.

Now I use words, written and spoken. Documenting life. Reflecting on life. But words are passive if not combined with action, production, or movement.

Eventually, as the words fade, I'd like to be able to say I used my life to create art. My indomitable spirit, mercurial and knowing, infusing the very steps I have taken, steps leading down a path, path become journey, journey become inspiration, inspiration become contagious for many.

In the end I'd like to think my willingness to change and grow, my audacity to continue when I knew not how, my courage to face and diffuse challenges, to find another way, to not fear the empty spaces, but continue creating, has been a testament to my spirit.

I'd like to think my life will live on by the example I have lived, through the women I've touched, and through my child, whose innocence and spirit I am entrusted to nurture, who will one day take her impressions and make her own creations.

Dancing Along the Edge

Some people look at the sea and see only depth, survival, drowning, despair.

Some people see expansion, change, a journey, a place to cast dreams, possibility.

I dance along the edge
where ocean meets dry land,
where reality meets possibility,
and where unlimited possibility
becomes reality.

And when it builds rather than destroys,
unifies rather than alienates,
inspires rather than denigrates,

This is the ultimate Creation.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

How Far Can I Take This?

As I ponder just how deep I wish to delve into this public school advocacy journey, gathering like-minded parents to harness, uplift and embrace Westside neighborhood schools, juxtaposed with the quicksand of all that is LAUSD and the community's disparate agendas, I am alternately excited, filled with hope and optimism--"it's do-able!" and also dread and exhaustion--"just how much effort can one repeatedly expend through one's life!" Or more succinctly, "not so do-able!" I have flashes of "do I really need yet another fixer-upper project in my life?" and "when does it get to the easy part?"

Just how far can I take this?

As I step into the street, arms sweaty, lungs open from my morning run, I am filled with a sense of ever-expanding power--a self that is grounded yet so vast it stretches across the entire intersection, where anything is possible:

"As far as I want it to go!"

This is the knowingness that rises when holding the question.

Isn't this always the answer?

It is the mind that doubts, the body that tires and weakens, and the spirit that sinks. Yet it is with connection and determination, joining forces with others toward a common goal, each one adding her strength, vision, momentum; together we can build anything.

I am as big as I want to be
I am as capable as I want to be
I am as vast as eternity
All things are possible
You just need to be willing.
I am willing.

I am reminded of this as I climb The Steps. Same steps, endless steps. Step…step…step…step. Steady, easy pace, consistent rhythm; this is not a race. One foot in front of the other, step…step…step…a moving meditation all the way to the top, the top no different than the bottom, nothing in-between but steps, focus, breathing, moving, kicking aside worry, doubt, negativity, thought even. Just step. Do it. Done. Next.

"As far as I want it to go!"

And on another topic, the question is not can I write, but rather, what do I want to write about? Where do I want to devote my time, my energy? What do I want to spend the next year on?

A series of ideas bubble up to the surface. Salt crusts over my face forming sandy crystals. The sweat evaporates. I am ready to start. One foot in front of the other.

I am grateful for the time, the years, the preparation, the healing, and the knowledge.

And now, I must do.

And so it is.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What's new--Public School Advocacy

What's new in public school advocacy land?

Let's see. Many people have been asking for an update. I think I shall itemize:

Since Jan 14th, 2007, the eve of our illustrious Venice Edition of "Martinis, Magnets & More," and as a response to the swell of emails from confused parents, I cranked out and made available an informative 25-pg guidebook:

Westside Guide to Public Elementary Schools:

Navigating Magnets, Charters, Permits & More

"a no-nonsense, easy to understand, nuts and bolts type handbook covering all your Westside public elementary school options."

*Demystifies Magnets, The Point System, how Charters work

*Outlines how (and when) the different Lotteries take place

*Identifies when a Permit could help and more
*Complete listing of 57 Westside Elementary Schools and their contact #'s
*Handy month-by-month
timeline of application and lottery deadlines

I have been selling those directly to parents via paypal, and donated 100 copies (including the document file for additional print runs) of a condensed version to my preschool for all future matriculating parents.

Was approached to speak to the local Neighborhood Council's Education Committee where I presented my idea of forming a loose affiliation, an "uber-booster" support summit where core parent leaders from all the Westside neighborhood schools could gather to compare notes, share resources and successful strategies to grow and revitalize our neighborhood feeder schools. There is roughly a dozen schools in the immediate vicinity, some of which are doing really well while others are struggling.

Was invited to attend a citywide think tank of active movers and shakers within the public school community to discuss and share strategies to raise the profile of the little neighborhood school. How do we shift the perception and improve the schools in order to get the neighbors back into the neighborhood schools instead of abandoning them for other options? This is the core question.

An ongoing online dialogue was formed to continue to share resources and ideas, of which I have been an active participant, resonating with parents, even gathering support from the other side of town.

I also have volunteered at a revitalizing local neighborhood school, attending booster club meetings, spreading the growing excitement of the school and assisting at the last tour for prospective parents.

On the horizon:

Considering hosting a brunch for prospective parents who might be considering this local school, forming a safe environment for candid discussion, and ideally to encourage active participation and enrollment.

Been considering how to form and connect active parent clusters at the neighborhood schools that could use more help and a perception shift.

Been asked by a write-in to the LA Times to put together another Westside community public school event, based on the successful buzz the last one generated.

In the meantime, I have attracted one who's intent it is to badger, attack and write inflammatory misrepresentations about my "work" (among others) and virtually stalk via internet anyone who may or may not be able to reach me to obtain a copy of my parental guidebook, which he insists contains "conspiracy theories" or ways to maneuver around the district's administration, which it does nothing of the kind. Although at times lucid, wrapping nuggets of truth around misinformation, I have been told he has a history of this, a restraining order against him from the local elementary school, and that there is a district person who's sole job is to monitor his petty yet combative behavior, his relentless filing of public grievances and letter writing campaigns. Nevertheless, it gives me great pause to continue the inroads I have built thus far, and to open myself up to this kind of thing.

Having no "hidden agenda" other than wanting to help parents learn of and navigate their options, and rallying the neighborhood for parent participation, this man's recent activity and barrage of emails (cc'd all over town and all the way up to the mayor of Los Angeles), makes me question just how far I want to stick my neck (and my name) out to try to unify and build community.

So for now, I am on the fence, reconsidering next steps.
Perhaps I will give up this noble idea of community activism and become instead a private, self-serving, mind-my-own business capitalist, as so many have done before me. But then an idea strikes me, and I envision an intuitive way to proceed, much to my husband's dismay. (He would rather I bring in a substantial income instead of mucking about in this public school volunteer pit.)

Some days, though I resist it, I feel called to this work. Can't explain why. I just know things, and aren't afraid to do them. I actually feel I can make a difference and am encouraged when others seem to respond to me when I speak out.

Other days, on receipt of another tiresome email, I cease and desist, and question what the hell I am wasting my precious time and energy for.

So there you have it: one foot sinking into the quicksand that is LA public schools, and the other running out the door.

In the meantime, there was something quite momentus for me in putting together a "mini-book," complete with an outline and table of contents and clarified arc. It's as if my "big book" idea is now somehow less frightening and more do-able. So, for that alone, it has been a great ride.