Friday, February 26, 2010

jordan arrival

I'm here thanks to long legs and the ability to sprint a good 30 international gates at JFK. My layover was supposed to be 2 hours which I knew could make it tight, but nothing like stepping off in a different terminal and hearing last call for your flight (my flight to JFk was 1.5 hrs late). The flight from Jordan was actually very mellow and I slept instead of watching the 4 movies and was most thankful for the empty seat next to me, bose noise cancelling headphones, and unisom.
Our hotel in Amman is very nice, certianly the nicest of any mission I have been on. Operation Smile Jordan is very well established and has so much support, they have done a great job establishing a really robust incountry program. They are very enjoyable to work with. I WISH MY ARABIC WAS BETTER

It was great to sleep in a real bed. I realized though I probably didn't need an alarm clock because the call to prayer sounds at 4:30 and 4:50 and Ic an't fall back to sleep after that. I am used to it from all my travels, but the here it is very beautiful and ethereal sounding, especially mixed in with the sounds of rain.

Breakfast delicious was on the top floor of the hotel with a gorgeous view of Amman. The screening set-up changed due to the rain (they are usually out under tents and with over 177 kids we screened today - each comes with about 3 people so in a very small space there were probably around 8000 people packed it. Not good for those who like personal space. So there was much ball tossing, jenga playing, bubble blowing, of course I am the favorite because I come bearing toys in all their varieties. So many really darling children. Tomorrow will be the second day of screening more Jordanian as well as Palestinian kids who have crossed the border for this. The wireless internet at the hotel is a bit touchy so I can't really upload good pics now but I promise you'll see them soon!
Everyone is so welcoming, and you have to love the way blond hair always makes people stare.
dinner and shower are calling (really I probably need to lysol my entire body too!)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

now that that's behind me

I can go to Jordan...yes 3 days and counting.
I have been dying to do this painting since I did the study shot at Christmas. I switched it up going horizontal and going bigger-- the shot really needed it. It's 36"x48" so alot to undertake in 5 nights of painting, nothing like a deadline to make you work. Best thing was that it was winter vacation week so I could  stay up until 1:30 am painting with no real consequnces the next day. Needless some serious music grooves were required, I think I went through every song on my playlists even breaking out some Barry White and classic Stan Getz bossa nova. (I would also like to take this time to praise great sound- thanks to the Bose products in every room in my house. That alone would have been reason enough to have married my husband -xo-let alone his spontaneous dishwashing, and laundry doing) The painting was also witness many olympic medals-- half pipe anyone?

I was afraid to leave it partially done because there is an necessary short term memory log that is required on a painting- of what you mixed to get what, and what proportion of maimeri navy, golden smalt, and winsor newtons payne's gray I used to make the skirt color. Deep sixing that info on a 2 week hiatus could equal disaster. Love the backlighting in this piece. Insider tidbit for this shot I again shoved my two year old into the 6-12 month jammies (they were just the perfect cut and super pale ice blue color) and the food in the bowl -- m&ms-- yep mom had to go hardcore to get full cooperation for the shot.
Oh and you catch me on Segullah today talking about Wielding Power

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

switching painting series

I know, I know I am not done with the domestic series yet, but I couldn't resist changing gears for a few nights to start on this mothering one. (I made the rule so I can break it!)So here is the first one in my mothering series as seen on the sparkly new easel.

A story behind the shot, this is the crib at my parents house that they've had since my childhood, and a quilt my grandmother crocheted. It is smooth color blocks of yellow, white, and aqua-- so very cool. The baby is actually my two year old squeezed into a pair of 6-12 month jammies (quite comical)

As I approach this series though I am struggling with how to do this series without it feeling overly sentimental? I am hoping the more stylized nature of the technique will help. I want them to be interesting and make people think about domestic connectionss but I don't want them to feel like posters of puppy dogs (you know the "ahhh thats so cute factor") which things that involve babies often engender?

Looking at the photograph is making me think I need to change the skirt a little- it's making my backside look a little wide-like a bad pair of jeans. As the unfortunate model for all the shots (as anyone who goes to knows me can tell you they see these outfits and shoes regularly), I don't want to be remembered in unflattering ways...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

getting ready...10 days to Jordan

So in 10 days I leave for Amman. It's finally starting to sink in, as the suitcases and piles begin to mound in the corners of my room. I am trying to keep my boys out of my toy stashes and plan clothes for 65-70 degrees (something I haven't felt in a few months!)

I check out our hotel and wow- it looks so nice. Accomodations on medical missions are not usually very deluxe and can in fact be quite primitive as in limited water, single bulb socket in the ceiling).  My most memorable accomodations from a past mission was the Hotel Kunste in Kenya. The windows did not shut all the way (not good when you are in a malaria risk area) and I was always afraid someone or something would come in through the windows at night. I had to sleep under deet soak mosquito netting- which also takes some getting used to. Think negative 3 stars on a US scale. The only decor in the room was a book order poster (each room was different, michael jackson, kittens, island scenes) hung 10 feet in the air so you couldn't reach them or steal them even if you stood on the bed. In the Philippines, we slept in the hospital which made for interesting accomodations (so convienient to walk down the hall to the the patients) I do miss their great mangos and purple yam ice cream. Siberia wasn't bad it except you couldn't flush toilet paper and I was 10 weeks pregnant with my first son so I threw up in alot of Siberian bathrooms (something I prefer to never do again). Morocco was good, both hotels, the one in Agadir catered to european tourists and hard really bizarre evening variety shows, the one in Marrakesh was quiet and had a beautiful pool, only it was too cold to swim, and the side benefit was nightly midnight cockroach squishing. Luckily you are so exhausted at the end of the day you can sleep pretty much anywhere.

I am also looking forward to the fringe benefits of some good middle eastern food. Something you know I love after living in Turkey and studying abroad in Jerusalem and Egypt.Also it will be neat to see Petra and some of the sights of Jordan.

Tonight I showed my boys this clip from a past Operation Smile Mission to Jordan. So they can envision where I will be. I also started dreaming of where I'd like to go on my next medical mission (I know I know I need to get through this one first... but I am thinking Indonesia? Bangladesh? India?)

Then I read from the operation smile blog about the volunteer teams they have in Haiti helping now. Tonight's entry was especially heartbreaking. As I read it to my boys it helped them see how their cupcakes for haiti project really will make a different those 4400 pounds of rice and beans will feed alot of people, as the entry highlighted the shortages of food and water.  It was especially hard to read as they wrote about a 4 year old boy with burns. I saw two very similar cases of severely burned babies when I was on medical missions in the past, babies who couldn't survive due to infections from the extensive burns over their entire bodies. I will always remember those mothers and their babies. It was such a poignant reminder of the realities of life and the needs around us near and far.

So my thoughts for valentines day... share your love, whenever, whereever, and with whomever you can. There is always someone's life you can change for the better.

XO- les

Friday, February 12, 2010

domestic #11, painting playlist

morning paper, acrylic on canvas, 30x40"

You know me and my painting playlists. I need music when I paint- it keeps me going late at night So every so often I give you my current favorite painting playlist's this weeks list:

1. Movie Screens- Meese
2. Straight Away- Mat Kearney
3. Promises- Badly Drawn Boy
4. Crawl - Chris Brown
5. This Is The Last Time -Keane (you know it wouldn't be a painting mix w/o some Keane)
6. Long Walk Home- This Day and Age
7. Sleeping to Dream- Jason Mraz

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

domestic #9, domestic #10

I bought myself a new easel my way of congratulating myself on getting the 10th piece in this series done. Also as a matter of necessity. I am floor sitter and actually I love to paint on the floor. I know that sounds crazy- and If you catch me really late at night I sometimes paint half lying down. I love having flexiblity to move around the canvas easily and I think it comes from being in early childhood I am drawn to the floor like a magnet. But my knee (which has hardly any remaining cartiledge) is not liking it- so I am going to attempt to force myself back to easel working...we'll see how it goes...

Friday, February 05, 2010

I am in love...

They came.

 For those who weren't watching last season, I'll re-cap. Smart mama's glorious long red couch has been a witness to her almost 11 years of marriage. Fading dramatically from the sun, sagging under years of love from 3 active boys. Now considered geriatric in couch years. Smart mama searches desperately to find what she wants. She can see it in her head-- no one makes it. Finds a great couch in architectural digest--it's perfect-- research yields it was custom made- dead end. Apartment Therapy is enlisted in her cause. She turns then to the sofa company in CA (and with the help of hannah, our design consultant) she customs designs her perfect couch for a steal (really less than alot of ugly couches).

Necessary factors for design:
-can't be too low (I am tall)
-clean lines (not a frou-frou girl, I have bachelor tastes when it comes to lines)
-want low wide track arms (that feel like an unobtrusive extension of the couch, utilitarian, doubles as a casual extra seat at parties)
-long (won't even consider anything under 86")
-no skirt or place for things to hid under it
-neutral fabric (found a fab charcoal boucle which was exactly what I pictured in my head)
-must be 23" or greater seat depth
-must feel sturdy like it can last in a house of boys
-no back cushions (husbands one dying request, less things for our kids to pull off)
-mid-century nods

My kids are drawn to them like magnets. They are perfect platforms for reading, rolling around, lounging. We bought two, so allen I could each have our own! I love that we designed them- they are us! (believe me it required arduous hours of measuring, sitting, and drawing) but it was worth it all-- and I am am sold on custom- don't know if I can do pre-made ever again...

so here's to love, which brought about almost 11 years of marriage and the need for new couches (which are reason enough alone to stay married for a decade!)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Cupcakes = 4,440 lbs. of rice and beans for Haiti

You know how I love global causes and helping my boys see they can have a part in greater good across the world. Well when I heard about Cupcakes for Haiti that Lynette Austin put together in Northern Virginia I thought hey that’s something I can do.  But life is crazy right now, as in really crazy, as in leaving for Jordan in 3 weeks, working on 2 painting commissions, seminary, town meetings, seft dance donation solicitations, trying to wrap up my domestic series, and emails flooding my inbox like that scene form harry potter where the letters fly in from every opening to the house. So it would have been easy to ignore the thought and inspiration, but when you feel the urge to do good things—you do them.
While I knew I couldn’t pull of something grandiose I knew I could do something. Lynette and I chatted on the phone (thanks to Rose Dall for hooking us up) because I believe in learning from those more experienced, her experience and wisdom was invaluable. After we talked I said ,”That’s it I am going to do it!” Because you know if there is one thing I can do it’s make cupcakes and frosting and my sprinkle collection is legendary. (Maybe I will will it to the Smithsonian when I die). I decided to keep it small scale and make the focus involving my kids and our neighbors. We had 3 days from the time we secured a location to get it pulled off.
So we made cupcakes- lots of cupcakes- hundreds of cupcakes. My 4yo old is a master of the hand mixer. My 2 year old also fought over full mixer control and mastered the job of “beater licker”. Smart mama mixed giant triple batches of fresh vanilla and chocolate butter cream frosting (now you see why 7 qt mixer is an essential element in our home). Smart daddy-o covered trays and sampled frostings. May I also caveat the only thing I had to buy at the store was eggs (all the other things for this were already in my food storage shelves!)

We made posters (can you believe I actually learned how to make posters with chalk pastels in college) We invited friends and neighbors over for a family night decorating party. We love inviting people to our home and especially when we are united by a great cause. It was really great to have a project that the kids could have fun with even at ages 2-9. We had infinite variation of cupcakes, frostings, and sprinkles which made for a beautiful and alluring display.
In my preparation I wondered how we would package them, and then an idea struck punch cups-It was perfect they fit in nicely. You wrap the tops with cellophane and they look gorgeous, travel well and don’t smash- so may I recommend that for any future bake sales with cupcakes!!

We set up in the breezeway of Goretti’s a locally owned store, which was so kind of them, because it is Feb in New England (high on about 33 degrees. And for 4 hours my kids, and our friends the Jones and one of their friend manned the table. We were overwhelmed with the generosity of the community. People leaving money without taking anything. People paying $10 for a cupcake. In fact it went so well Christy and I were taking turns running home kicking out 5 more dozen cupcakes and 3 dozen more cookies! It was deeply humbling to see the goodness and concern of others.

I was so touched by the remarks of some of the people who stopped to talk to our kids. One woman teared up and said to the kids, “I know you are giving from the heart, Jesus is proud of you”. Our kids felt powerful. They beamed when we sold out an hour early! As we sat at the table we talked about the difference that this could make, and how if no one stepped up, no one would get help. It’s so easy to think someone else will take care of things instead of sharing in the burdens of humanity ourselves.

They counted up with glee the hundreds and hundreds of dollars that had been shoved in the donation can. (We are donating it to Food for the Poor and interdenominational humanitarian supply agency.) We calculated it out and with the money they made it will purchase 4,400 lbs of rice and beans for people in Haiti! (Food for the Poor has a feeding center there where they are providing hot meals).
A testament that by small a simple things great things can come to pass. The power of kids, cupcakes, and a community that cares.