Art Healing Trauma

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In case any of you have missed my barrage of messages, entreaties and marketing blitzes, I am appearing in a charity production of The Vagina Monologues on March 28th in Santa Monica, CA. This is the fifth consecutive year that we’ve produced the show to support efforts to end violence against women. Information and tickets can be found here.

The Vagina Monologues - March 28th
The Vagina Monologues – March 28th

The local charity that receives the proceeds from our show is a Venice, CA-based organization called A Window Between Worlds. These wonderful folks sponsor programs that use art to help people who have experienced trauma. Their methods have met with such success over the years that they have recently expanded their mission. Where once they worked exclusively with women and girls, they are now extending their reach to include boys and men, veterans and their families, and the mental health field.

Table filled with art supplies at A Window Between Worlds
Table filled with art supplies at A Window Between Worlds

Every year, AWBW invites our cast to their headquarters so we can see firsthand what they do. Every year, this is one of the highlights of the whole experience for me. Each day I become more attuned to how creativity is an integral part of who I am and how exercising my creativity makes me feel better and helps me to process all that stuff that goes on inside me. It’s a way to explore, to meditate and to heal. If I may be frank, these workshops are fucking awesome.

One of my favorite exercises is when we each take one portion of a drawing of a tree. We decorate our little square in whatever way moves us. Then all the squares are put back together, revealing one multi-dimensional image. It’s a perfect way to illustrate how we are all different, yet we can all come together to create something beautiful.

Before & After
Before & After

AWBW has this fantastic art room that is stocked floor to ceiling with every kind of art supply imaginable – paint, paint brushes, glue, glitter, pipe cleaners, paper, crayons, markers, colored pencils, bits of this and that. It’s exciting to be in and around all this great stuff and fun to explore all these different ways to express ourselves.

Muppet Shrinky Dinks!
Muppet Shrinky Dinks!

Remember Shrinky Dinks? Those fun plastic thingies from our childhood that you put in the oven and they magically shrink?

 

 

 

 

 

Vagina Shrinky Dinks!
Vagina Shrinky Dinks!

Yeah – we make vagina Shrinky Dinks every year and it is AWESOME.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year our cast made also made a vagina painting together. All of us gathered around this canvas and made what we think looks like a pretty good Art Deco version of a pussy. What do you think?

Art Deco Vagina
Art Deco Vagina

I know I can speak for our entire cast when I say that this workshop is a fun night for us, and makes us appreciate even more what AWBW is doing for survivors out there. They are addressing a problem with a unique and creative solution, and their efforts are making a difference in communities across America, helping to break the silence surrounding violence.

You can help support AWBW AND have a fun night out by coming to see the show! If you aren’t in LA and would like to help, you can also purchase a ticket on behalf of a survivor. Just head over to the event page, click on “contact organizer” and leave a note saying your ticket is for a survivor.  It will allow a woman who might not normally be able to afford to come to the show an opportunity to experience a night of empowerment, community and joy.

IN VAG WE TRUST! Paint on, Vagina Warriors!

Happy Coming Home Day, Murray!

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Something unexpected happened on this morning one year ago today.

The two falsely imprisoned felines, hanging out together in my yard.
The two falsely imprisoned felines, hanging out together in my yard.

I was outside working in my garden when I spotted a woman walking down middle of my street pushing a shopping cart that had a cage perched in its basket. I could see that inside the cage were two cats, one black and one grey. In fact, they were two of the three very friendly cats that had been visiting my yard in the evenings over the past few weeks.

 

 

It seemed a bit strange, what she was doing, but I thought maybe they belonged to her. She got halfway down the street, when she stopped to talk to a neighbor – leaving the cart and the cats unattended in the middle of the street. My initial instinct was to let her go on her merry way. They weren’t my cats, and I didn’t know this woman. I figured I’d watch her walk around the corner and never see them again.

But instead of going forward, she turned around and came back towards my house. I could see she was looking for something, occasionally stopping to crouch or peer into yards. I suspected she was looking for the third kitty of the trio. I felt like because she had turned around I was given another chance to speak up and say something to her about this odd situation. I’m not usually bold or confrontational, and I could feel my heart rate elevate and my palms start sweating.

Once she got to the street in front of my house, I called out to her. She pushed the cart over to my sidewalk. I could see she was mentally disabled in some way.

I asked her if the cats were hers. She said no. I asked what she was doing with the cats, why she had them in a cage. She said she didn’t know.

Well, that’s odd, I thought.

I pressed on with my line of questioning. “Do you live around here? Are you taking them to your house?”

“Yes,” she replied, “but I’m not allowed to have cats and I don’t have the money to feed them.”

“Then why are you taking them?

“I don’t know,” she smiled and laughed, “I just really like them.”

Oh boy. I imagined her taking them back to her house, keeping them in the cage and not feeding them, and then them dying of starvation, eventually.

“I know you want to do the right thing, and I appreciate that,” I said to her, trying to figure out the best way to save these poor cats from this terrible fate. “I think they are doing okay on their own outside. Why don’t you let them out into my yard?” I asked, tentatively, and probably in a too-enthusiastic voice.

“Well….” I could see her thinking about it.

“I bet they’ll still come and visit you every day. They visit me, too. They are very friendly kitties. But I think the best thing to do is to let them out to be free.”

At this point, my well-meaning husband comes outside and sees that I’m trying to convince this woman to let the cats out of the cage, the same cats he and I were trying to figure out how we were going to get them into a cage to take them in for spaying/neutering so we wouldn’t have even more feral cats in our neighborhood.

“What are you doing?” he demanded, motioning to the cats. “She’s got them.”

I turned to face him and in the gruffest voice I could possibly muster without sounding too threatening to the woman’s ears I said, “Turn around and walk away.”

“But…” he tried to go on.

“TURN AROUND AND WALK AWAY,” I said again through gritted teeth.

This is unusual behavior for me, so he stopped talking, gave me a funny look, and turned around and walked back into the house.

As I turned back to the woman, she was getting the cage out of the cart and setting it on the sidewalk. She then opened the door. She was letting them go!

“I think you’re doing the right thing,” I said to her. “And don’t worry, I know the kitties understand you want to help them, and I’m sure they’ll come visit you again.”

Murray enjoying the scenery
Murray enjoying the scenery

The black cat and the grey cat snaked their way between my picket fence posts and dashed under the cover of my artichoke plants. The woman picked up her cage, inserted it back into the shopping cart and disappeared around the corner. I’ve not seen her since.

After getting all three spayed/neutered, chipped and vaccinated, I worked to find them homes. They were just too friendly and sweet to damn them to a life on the street in Los Angeles.

But the little black one, my secret favorite, had other plans. Always the friendliest and most outgoing, he would hide when anyone came over to meet him.

You don't know it yet, but you're keeping me...
You don’t know it yet, but you’re keeping me…

I’m pretty sure now it was his way of saying that he was staying. He’s still here. And he is never going anywhere, because that damn cat has us in the palm of his, well, paw.

So I consider today Murray’s coming home day. It’s the day that began the chain events that resulted in him becoming part of our family. There are days when I love this cat so much it hurts. He is goofy and affectionate and I’ve never seen him hiss once, not even at our other cat who is much less happy about his presence than we are.

I think he is an incarnation of Bobby McFerrin, telling us every day, “Don’t worry, be happy!”

Okay, little nugget, I’ll work on it. Until then, feel free to nap on my bed, sit in my lap, capture all the bugs in the house and purr, purr, purr your mighty purr.

Enjoying life on the inside.
Enjoying life on the inside.
You're bed? No. My bed.
Your bed? No. My bed.

 

Writing Myself Right-Sized

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writing diet cover

Anyone who knows me or who reads this blog regularly knows that I struggle just a little bit with my weight.

I like food a whole lot. I also like making food a whole lot, and my husband likes making food a whole lot. We like trying new foods and expanding our palates and tasting different wines, and…. Well, you get the picture.

I also eat my feelings. I have lots of feelings. So this adds up to a whole lot of eating and a whole lot of food.

I’ve dieted since I was 15. I’ve gained and lost the same 30 pounds many times in my life. I’ve lost weight with Weight Watchers, SlimFast, the Master Cleanse and just plain old common sense.

None of these things are working for me right now.

So imagine my delight when I discovered that Julia Cameron, the woman behind “The Artist’s Way” is also the author of a weight-loss book, “The Writing Diet.”

Okay, I’m skeptical too. It seems everyone these days has their own diet book. But I’m also intrigued.

Writing has been a way into myself this last year. I’ve discovered that my creativity is heightened and I feel more fulfilled when I write. This was a huge surprise to me. I’ve always hated writing in the past.

So why not try using writing to help break this cycle of weight loss and weight gain? It’s worth a try, right?

I haven’t finished the whole book yet, but I’ve begun the program. It consists of seven tools:

  1. Morning Pages
  2. The Journal
  3. Walking
  4. The Four Questions – 1) Am I hungry?, 2) Is this what I feel like eating?, 3)Is this what I feel like eating now?, and 4)Is there something else I could eat instead?
  5. The Culinary Artist Date
  6. HALT – Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired
  7. The Body Buddy

I’ve been doing my morning pages every day for six months, and yesterday I started my journal and a daily walking regimen. Will I keep with it? I don’t know. But I’m going to share my progress and obstacles with you here.

I’m willing to give it a try. Anybody care to join me?

 

 

The “C” Word

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I want to talk about the “C” word today. No, I don’t mean cancer. I mean cunt.

Did that get your attention?

What is it about the word cunt that inspires such a strong reaction?

I’m rehearsing “The Vagina Monologues” this month for a charity production on March 28th. One of the monologues specifically deals with the word “cunt”. It reclaims it, if you will. The woman in the monologue attempts to show us what makes the word cunt so wonderful, so luxurious, and so energizing.

But not everyone feels the same way. In fact, many in the cast don’t like the word. And we’re a pretty open-minded bunch of vagina warriors.

Although its first use is under debate, scholars generally seem to agree that it is derived from a Germanic word “kunto”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it’s first known use was as the name of a London street – “Gropecunt Lane”. How’s that for descriptive? It wasn’t until the 18th century that it became a taboo word, and didn’t generally appear in print until the 20th century. Wikipedia gives a pretty thorough explanation of its history, if you’re interested.

What is clear is that it is one of the only words in the English language that still has the power to shock and provoke.

I daresay the only time I ever hear the word used is in the pejorative. Look it up on Dictionary.com and you’ll find this:

“Usage alert

All senses of this word are vulgar slang and are very strongly tabooed and censored. The meanings that refer to a woman and a contemptible person are used with disparaging intent and are perceived as highly insulting and demeaning. There are many words used to refer to people in sexual terms. However, to call a person a cunt, especially a woman, is one of the most hateful and powerful examples of verbal abuse in the English language. See also gash1.noun, Slang: Vulgar.

1. the vulva or vagina.

2. (a) a contemptuous term used to refer to a woman. (b) a term used to refer to a contemptible person.

3. sexual intercourse with a woman.”

I have friends who are careful never to use this word to describe anyone in a negative light. I myself am guilty of doing this, and going forward will try to eradicate from my vocabulary – especially as an insult to another woman.

What does the word cunt inspire in you? Do you see it as bad word? Or do you want to reclaim it, like Eve Ensler?

 

From "C is for Cunt", Ms. Magazine Blog
From “C is for Cunt”, Ms. Magazine Blog