Saturday, January 23, 2010

What do a 60th birthday party and the Respite Center have in common?

Sharon Kilfoy keeps an archive of ephemera from Madison's radical hey day in an upstairs bedroom. She is a dedicated community artist who has navigated the City of Madison's bureaucracy of permissions many times and created beautiful historical murals all over town. In recent years she has created murals at the Wilmar Center, Centro Hispano, and the Social Justice Center. In addition, she's converted her home into an art center. She's raised beautiful daughters. And, she is incredibly dedicated to her work at the Respite Center, the third oldest crisis center in the country, where "Since 1979, we have cared for children birth through 14 when their families are experiencing tough times.We prevent child abuse by providing a safe nurturing environmentfor children while we help parents build upon their strengths. Besides child care, we offer parents crisis intervention, short-term counseling, advocacy and referrals."

I was honored to receive an inviation to her 60th birthday party:
When: Saturday, January 23, 2010 5:00 PM-11:00 PM (GMT-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada).Where: 1020 Williamson St.
I'll be 60 on the 20th! Stop by on the 23rd, help me celebrate this milestone, and donate to the Respite Center, Madison's 24-hour emergency-crisis child care center. If 100 people donate $10 each, we will raise $1000 for a great cause! If you can't help out, stop by anyway!!

$10? Nope, I think $40 would be better. Thank you Sharon for all the work you do in this world. You are a beautiful, beautiful person.

On Feb 3, 2010 I got a note from Sharon that said, "Dear Karin, Thank you for helping make my birthday benefit bash a big success. Your donation of $40 will help children in stress. Together we raised more than $1700!!" I love seeing the birthday love spread around.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grrl Power

So there is this amazingly energetic and creative woman around town named Angela Richardson. She is a great performer (burlesque, trapeze, theater, comedy, public speaking and a photography.) She is a founding member Cherry Pop Burlesque where one of her ever poplular character's Olive Talique has bedazzled thousands of excited fans. She has also danced with Cycropia Aerial Dance and will be MCing the Aug 28 & 29, 2009 Orton Park Festival Shows. Her photography can be viewed on her flickr site

The thing that I love about Angela-as-artist is how devoted she has been to creating to a healthy community through artistic practices. Her art comes from a very personal place and yet reflects a grand utopic vision of a world where men and women are allowed to inhabit their bodies and celebrate their sexuality without harm or shame. Where neighbors care deeply about each other and where people actively participate in making decisions about how they want their society to do/be/act/look/behave. She is so generous with her very beingness that I didn't expect her to be able to pick a single cause for my birthday challenge. I guess she wrote down all her favorite causes on tiny bits of paper and drew from one of her fabulous wigs because today I got a FB message from her that says:

I donated $100 to GNP at the Goodman Center in July. I may have missed your generous offer to match up to $40, since another bday of yours has come and gone (!!!) already. But in case not...

"Madison's Girl Neighborhood Power initiative provides girls ages 9-14 with the opportunities and support they need to become confident skilled young women through a comprehensive approach including leadership, community service, health education and career development. Girl Neighborhood Power uses the power of youth, family and the community to strengthen resilience, build skills, and provide opportunities, so that girls make responsible choices and reach their highest aspirations."

I bet you know all about their programs already. And I am SURE you know why it's so important to support programs like this for girls in our community! If your generous offer still stands, please consider a donation.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Camping Soothes the Soul

Karen Foxgrover is clearly here to inspire and teach others. Our relationship started as that of an employee to an employer when I worked as her attendant in the early 1990's. Fortunately over sushi and conversation our connection evolved into a lifelong friendship. Karen is one of the most active women I've ever met. She's involved in numerous organizations from advocacy work for the rights of people with disabilities to teaching workshops on how to communicate more clearly to modeling self care by doing everything she can to live as healthfully as possible.

Over the years Karen has told me of the psychological and spiritual importance of her annual summer pilgrimage to the woods of Wisconsin to go camping in an accessible setting. She participated in the b-day challenge by making a donation to With A Little Help, Inc. The website explains, ""With A Little Help...", Inc. camps allow for the extensive and individualized assistance adults, including individuals who reside in institutionalized settings, to participate in activities and outings which persons weakened by neuromuscular conditions otherwise could not enjoy.

The one-on-one assistance provided by volunteer attendants and the use of a very unique and recently remodeled accessible facility make it possible for the disabled adults to attend and actively participate in the camping experience. For many of the disabled adults, camp is the only opportunity for swimming, adaptive sports and recreational activities. Camping opportunities also provide much needed respite time for family members and personal care attendants who provide around-the-clock daily care."

I'm not sure yet exactly what the best way to contribute to With A Little Help will be, but I'm certain Karen and I will figure out the perfect way to help when we soon get together for sushi to belatedly celebrate her birthday.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Life Becomes Perfect

Mother Amma, divine mother, compassionate, consoling, says, "compassion to the poor and needy is our duty to God." I read on her website that "Amma always points out that the purpose of one's life is to realize who we really are. She says, 'By realizing our own Self we become full, with nothing more to gain in life. Life becomes perfect.'

I think I first heard about Amma from the woman to whom this blog is dedicated. I believe St. Lulu got a hug from Mother Amma at one point. So at the time I thought of Amma as she who hugs, I haven't thought about her for a long time until Alison Einbender brought her up at Elizabeth's house (the teacher in "The Art of Teaching Creatively"). It was a magical day, the women in Elizabeth's circle are very special, they all possess these wonderfully big gifts but are humbly human. Alison and I talked about quite a few things that day connecting over the perfection of all things from the mystical to the imperfect. I was so grateful for the company of such cool women and that Alison brought the Divine Mother's inspiration of love and light and happiness with us on that day. Later that week, Alison made a donation of $40 to Mother Amma.

Wikepedia has a summary of the humanitarian programs of Amma which I think is relevant to spirit of the World According to St. Lulu: "a program to build 100,000 homes for the poor; hospitals; orphanages; hospices; women's shelters; pension disbursements for widows; community aid centers; homes for the aged; eye clinics; and speech therapy centers. Many of Amma's centers in the US run 'Mother's Kitchen', or 'vegetarian soup-kitchens', where volunteers prepare and serve meals to the poor and needy, 100 schools, 20 temples, one super-speciality hospital in Kochi, feeds thousands during mass kitchen, provides pension every year to over 15,000 widows, builds 25,000 houses annually for the homeless and has 35 Amma welfare centres all over the world to spread her spiritual message, a billion rupees (23 million dollars) in aid to the victims of the 2004 tsunami. The Math's relief work is happening in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Andaman & Nicobar islands and in Sri Lanka, a $1,000,000 to the Bush-Clinton Hurricane Katrina fund. She also sent a top aide to the devastated areas soon after the storm struck in the United States to assess the kind of help needed by victims, and thousands of blankets were sent and distributed to the survivors of the Kashmir and Pakistan earthquake.

The Art of Teaching Creatively

A good teacher is always challenged by teaching because her or his job is to cultivate the student's limitless potential, feed the student's curiosity, and facilitate the way finding to that individuals highest good. Under "No Child Left Behind," the challenge of teaching has been increased by the pressure to "teach" children to fill in the correct answers on tests. Mistakes, which are arguably, the most instructive teaching tool, are discouraged on scan tron tests. Add to the challenges that teachers already face the constraints of tight budgets and increasing numbers of students from families who are struggling economically and you've got an almost impossible task. Its like throwing a diver,in a cotton straight jacket, into a tank full of hungry sharks and expecting them to teach the sharks to eat seaweed.

Elizabeth Doyle got her MFA right here in Madison at the University of Wisconsin. A few years later, when she recovered her creative energy, she realized she needed to teach so she went back to school to get certified in K-12. Then she climbed into the straight jacket and jumped in the tank. She's doing a brilliant job. You should see the job she's doing. I'll ask her for some samples of the students work to add to this blog. For example, she showed me a before picture that one of her students made at the beginning of the year and an after picture that he made at the end of the school year and you could see the strides he had made in the ability to think abstractly and with dimensionality and complexity. She also has put together a fundraiser for the school's boundless playground.

Elizabeth's mother, Kay, is also a teacher and an artist. I've gotten to know her a little bit through Elizabeth and I have to say she is very generous with her daughter (and her daughter's friends). I think that it is one way she shows her daughter how much she believes in her and supports her. Her mom has graciously invited me to travel along with Elizabeth on trips to both Canada, where she has a summer place, and Tortola, where she has a winter place, and where I have taken two of the most restful vacations of my life. That is why it didn't surprise me when Kay wrote me from Sioux Lookout, Ontario to tell me that she was going to support the art department at Elizabeth's elementary school. She said, "She can decide how to use it." I can't wait to see what Elizabeth does with it, but I know it will make the world a more beautiful place.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Good Neighbor

We sat on a screen porch eating cheese and crackers, talking about some of the hard things that happen in life and some of the pleasures, like sitting on a screen porch with wonderful people eating cheese and crackers, talking about some of the hard things that happen in life and some of the pleasures. Over the course of a few hours, the summer breeze we enjoyed was punctuated by a light rain shower, sigh, heaven on earth.

Here's a picture of giving, creative family for you: Janet Laube is a social worker and education associate at the contemporary art museum, her husband is a doctor/professor, her daughter is a singer, her son is a former peace corps volunteer who runs an eco-lodge in Nicaragua. I was thinking her donation would have something to do with the work she does with people, from little girls to big men, helping them regain control over their violence and aggression. I thought maybe she donated to a project in Nicaragua that her son is connected to. Janet also works in the education department at MMoCA, we met there when I was an education assistant for MMoCA during graduate school. Thus, I thought I wondered if her donation would have something to do with the arts. Once again, I was surprised when Janet told me the story about why she donates to Neighborhood House.

If you are African, and live within 200 miles of Madison, you know Neighborhood house because you've been to a graduation or wedding party there. If you are not African, but you are local to Madison, you know Neighborhood house because it the oldest community center in Madison. Neighborhood House offers affordable gathering spaces for groups to use, runs a food pantry, and creates programs and resources for everyone from youth to seniors.

Neighborhood House is the closest community center to Janet's home and she believes in it because she believes in working together as a community to help one another. In fact, she's so committed to Neighborhood house that she serves as president of the board of directors...a fact I would not have known if not for a beautiful summer evening sitting on a screen porch eating cheese and crackers, talking about some of the hard things that happen in life and some of the pleasures.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Letter From Iraq, a Father's Mission to Carry On

About three weeks ago I was looking for an interactive map of the capitol square in the Wisconsin State Journal site and instead I found an interactive memorial day post about Wisconsin service members who had died in the previous year.
I looked at a few of them until I sat weeping at my desk. The story that started getting me worked up was the one that a daughter wrote about her dad. She wrote, "I thought it was going to be like any other trip: he leaves, he come back, he leaves, he comes back. But I was wrong." So by the time I got to the story about the 24 year old woman from Madison I was already cracked and it was just a matter of time before I would break. What got to me more than anything was her video letter home titled "Hi from Iraq."
I kept thinking about her parents and what they must be going through. Such a beautiful, apple-pie looking girl. I went back to work but I really haven't been able to stop thinking about her.
Tonight I was packing up to leave work and a colleague of mine, a City employee who takes care of the building, came in to check on things in the office. He remembered that last week I was in late one night finishing up a grant and he asked me if I would ever be willing to help out a group he's a member of with grant writing. I asked him what the group was and he told me that it's called Operation Never Forgotten, he's a member of it because his daughter, a medic in the Iraq war, died last October from wounds she sustained when her unit was attacked by improvised explosives. Turns out, as fate would have it, I was already familiar with the story. The WSJ article had led me to a YouTube search to an internet review. His sweet baby girl is the very 24 year old Rachel Hugo I had shed tears over just a few weeks before. I had no idea I already knew her father.
Mr. Hugo, doesn't need a $40 donation before I turn 50. He needs someone to write a grant NOW so that he and his wife and son can put up a billboard reminding people that their daughter, and people like her, died trying to help people. He told me that she wanted to help people in Iraq and she wanted to serve her country. She was due to come home in about a month when she was killed. She had already gone "on an on-line shopping spree" according to the newspapers. He told me she would have graduated this May with her RN degree and gone on to help more people. He told me that he promised her last time she was home on leave that if anything ever happened to her, he would carry on.