Monthly Archives: November 2009

Flooding Memories of Days Gone By

Grass-Valley-CAWow! Can’t believe it is about 7 years since I left Nevada County. It was my life, my community, my passion, my identity, for about 15+ years. After a lifetime of travel before, during, and after, how comforting and secure it was to have roots for that long.

Since I left, I have been living the life of a nomad. No other community seems to compare. Now, as I plan my return for my 1st. book signing, I am contacting those I haven’t talked to in years. I am remembering just how wonderful it was to be a part of something, to be connected to so many, and to have an important role in their lives.

I miss Nevada County! Yes, I love the city and traveling and the richness of diverse communities, but never in my life have I had what Nevada City and Grass Valley offered, that small town feeling.

When I travel, I swear I see familiar faces wherever I go, but those illusions pass quickly when I realize it was just in my mind. That was my past, not my present. Although I DO hope to see a lot of familiar faces during my book signing.

Just want to give a shout out to all of you I know and love in Nevada County! I hope to see you soon and I hope you are well!

Christina Ivazes

http://TheNewPhysicsofChildhood.com

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Filed under 1, Books, children, community

Our ANGEL of ALTRUISM- What Will Become of Us Without THE OPRAH EFFECT?

 

The Angel of Altruism
The Angel of Altruism

THE PARADIGM SHIFT OF SUCCESS

Like millions of others, I have dreamt, for what seems to be a lifetime, of being on Oprah as a measure of my success. Others have even told me for years that maybe I will make it onto Oprah one day because American society has a success model for those who are authors, or for those who serve others; it is The Oprah Effect. We all know that if you make it onto Oprah, because of her powerful influence, not only will your business boom, if your passion project makes it into Oprah Winfrey’s “Book of Worthiness”, this project serving others is also destined to be a financial success!

In the event you haven’t realized it yet, this tried and true paradigm of success in “American Altruism” is about to evaporate into the ethos of television history.

As a person who measures my own personal success in life by how I serve others, I didn’t always have this aspiration to be touched by The Oprah Effect in order to acknowledge my success. (Meaningful work is its own reward.) Even today, I  Oprah and Her Magic Wand wouldn’t dare depend on this phenomenon to define or determine my life, but something happened years ago that gave me hope that there was a possibility that it could help. (Forgive me, but what follows is a little ‘horn-tooting’ and a necessary part of the back story.)

It started in the back of my mind many years ago when I was a high school teacher for at-risk youth. I observed what the lack of recreational opportunities and creative expression was doing to the moral of my skateboarding students. These high-creative students were more inclined towards skateboarding than football. They also needed proper outlets to prevent them from becoming criminals which had become the end result for many kids after years of criminalizing their skateboarding activity. They needed a legal place to skateboard in a county where skateboarding was illegal everywhere!

Isn’t this one of the biggest problems in our society? We criminalize normal behavior and continually pare down the opportunities for healthy physical and creative expression and then we wonder why we end up with so many delinquents!

For myself, the writing was on the skate scuffed wall. This project needed money and support to manifest. Others had failed, but that didn’t discourage me, even though ours was about the 6th effort in 20 years to build a skateboard park. I soon became the fire under the project, taking it on as my baby and volunteering 20-60 hrs./week. I engaged every segment of our county and enlisted the help of hundreds of local children and teens.

We raised money and support through numerous fundraisers. Yet after five long years, I admit I secretly dreamed of getting some press by Oprah to just make this skate park manifest with a wave of her golden wand. I was suffering from burnt-out and the kids were becoming cynical that it would never happen. Since I had been married to the project for about five years, I also wanted my personal life back so I could have a chance at a decent relationship some day, but I wouldn’t rest until the park was a reality.

Then, one day I got a phone call.

The call came on an afternoon following a long and exhausting fundraising weekend. I was worn-out. The phone rang. The person on the other end was not familiar. She was a soft-spoken woman who began asking me questions about the project. She said she was from the Oprah Winfrey Show. I became a little excited and evidently more open than I should have been. I talked about the predicament our children were in and casually slipped in that I was tired. She immediately told me not to share that with anyone who may contact me in the future. Oops!

As the weeks rolled by with no follow-up phone call, I regretted those words over and over again. Did I ruin my chances to get this park built with one untimely statement? Nope, no way could this stop me. I pulled myself out of what was a martyr mentality at the time and plodded ahead. I don’t think I ever told anyone what had been said to put this woman off. After all of our work, I was ashamed that “whining” may have sabotaged our success.

Later that year, luckily I did receive the national Daily Point of Light Award for my volunteer work on the project. This national recognition by a very clever mentor miraculously created a higher level of credibility with our local businesses and civic leaders. It became the “tipping point” that brought out the forces to fund and construct the project. Just at the right time the project was blessed with a construction savvy replacement for me. Chris Drainville would complete the project with her numerous contractor connections. Finally, with construction on its way, I left our little town to reconnect with my daughters who lived about 3 hours away, and to seek out a life partner.

No, we did not have The Oprah Effect to finish this skate park project, but we did need national recognition to encourage forward motion. Recognition creates validation which goes on to change the attitudes of the naysayers, which then creates more support. It is this positive domino effect that all non-profits or worthy service projects desire. Volunteers gain energy from the passion behind their causes and then they find sustenance to endure the challenges ahead when others jump on board to either recognize or help their efforts, much like the power of cheerleading. Meaning beyond self and the support to carry them out are necessary components when material gain is not a motivation.

  Grass Valley Skate Park  Now, it has been about 7 years since all of that transpired. I have had numerous lifetimes of experiences since then, especially in my work with children and teenagers. However, no matter what my future holds, the Grass Valley Skate Park will always be one of the most fulfilling accomplishments of my life beyond my own three children. The lifelong friendships I made, the incredible young people I worked with, and the hope these disenfranchised kids got from seeing this project completed because of the hard work and vision of an entire community are all priceless memories. Every time I return to  Grass Valley, I drive up to the park and silently watch skateboarders of all ages and their parents. I feel a sense of relief that the smaller ones will not have to endure the fate of their predecessors, who were plagued by police and tickets and negativity for skateboarding.

With all of that behind me, I have a confession. In coming out with my first book about the necessary pieces that are missing from our children’s lives today, such as those I   just mentioned, I have ALWAYS envisioned being on The Oprah Show to promote this current project of my own. Her golden wand could help bring   this vital  information  into the hands of  millions of adults; especially people who don’t generally read parenting books like grandparents and caregivers. I believe that engaging the other significant adults in a child’s life is also an important part of any deep and lasting solution to raise the quality of life for our children. 

My mission is to acquire regular donations for this book to pass it on to low-income parenting programs and to bring its preventative information into prisons for fathers and mothers preparing for re-entry into society. Eventually, when it is translated into Spanish, it will be accessible to immigrant communities in the US and Latin American Countries, to help pre-empt the harmful effects of cultural choices that are afflicting  American children. I wrote this book with this mission in mind, to do more beyond Nevada County to positively affect the lives of our children. I wrote it to dispel the myths around raising and caring for children that are promoting a host of very preventable problems.

So, what am I to do without The Oprah Effect? This current book project speaks specifically to the altruistic at heart. Even my aspirations to be on the cover of The New York Times Book Review someday will not necessarily reach the people I want to reach like The Oprah Show will. The Oprah Effect has evolved into the success milestone for the service-based community. It gives us the ability to promote our causes, garner support, and spread our missions beyond our own city borders.

Of course, as in this skateboard park story, there are other means, but what I am concerned about is who will fill the void for so many of us who dream of, visualize, and benefit from The Oprah Effect? (Even if it is just as likely as winning the lottery.) I suppose I still have a year to fulfill my own dream of being blessed by Oprah’s golden wand, but I will not hold my breath. I will plod along as I did before with or without her blessings. Others will also do the same.

However, we as a society DO need someone, somewhere to replace this magical golden wand: Oprah Winfrey, Our Angel of Altruism. We need another entity that reminds the American public on a regular basis that serving others is important, gratifying work and that funding worthy causes is the best use of our money when we are looking towards solutions.

Is Oprah Winfrey’s announcement changing your life or your own paradigm of success in any way? 

Oprah, are you training your replacement? Who will step into your shoes to fill this invaluable role for those who also serve? No matter what the future holds, we thank you for what you have done to elevate service to others above screaming matches!

Oprah Winfrey, you are a true American Hero and we know you aren’t

The Angel of Altruism

The Angel of Altruism

 done; you are just moving on to your next phase.

Thank you, Christina Ivazes

aka Granny Pants

http://thenewphysicsofchildhood.com/

 

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Filed under 1, children, mentor, Oprah, Parenting, prevention, skateboarding, teaching, The New Physics of Childhood, The+Oprah+Effect, volunteer, Writing

The Signs of Simpler Times!

LagerI suspect the current household I live in is similar in some of the following ways to other households in the U.S. today.

My husband and I lost our house this past year. Then I was laid off. These events prompted relocation to Roseville with my daughter, her husband, and my 1-year-old grandson to cut living expenses. As my husband’s business in Sacramento continued to slump downward, he started a new business in the Central Valley.

While we were moving our belongings to storage and seeking good homes for the belongings we no longer needed, I became aware of an interesting evolution in American consumer culture. In the early 90’s we had E-Bay.com! It was name your price and higher. Soon after the dot-com bust, the preferred favorite became Craigslist.org , where a deal could be had by all and where price gouging and bidder wars were a thing of our gluttonous past. Now, in 2009, after the massive economic meltdown hitting all sectors of our population, the new choice of the masses is swiftly becoming Freecycle.org, items not for bid, not for bargain prices, but for free!  This downward spiral of consumerism is not only ushering in a simpler time, but a smarter time where waste and unnecessary spending are seen for what they are–unnecessary. For us, Freecycle became the quickest and easiest way for to unload many of our no longer needed household items and move them into better homes. Even my houseplants found good homes through Freecycle with just a simple one-line posting and a phone call. Quick, easy, free, responsible, and win-win for all!

Yes, simpler, smarter times were in order for me, but I had no clue as to how deeply these changes would end up manifesting. Shortly after I moved in with my daughter, the three of us adults living in this new Roseville home were all unemployed. It was an uncanny joke, but we were not laughing. We were all part and parcel of the daily news; we were strung together with most every other American, rich and poor. No one seemed to be left out of this current state of affairs.

On the other hand, I found the first month of these dramatic changes actually a refreshing opportunity. I cleared out my boxes of unfiled paperwork, sorted my belongings into only the bare essentials. Unemployment was a blessing, giving me the much-needed time to rewrite my book and work on all of the other time-consuming publishing and networking details I never had the time to deal with. I also cherished this rare time with my grandson, feeling blessed every day I heard his sweet voice and saw his precious smile.

Into the second month, it was clear however that things really had to change, which further stimulated my analytical mind. I made a firm commitment to use only the resources I already had, both from a business and personal perspective. I reveled in just how many resources I actually had without having to go to the store. I had a good supply of bulk foods and office products and those little one-time use shampoos and lotions from years of traveling. I had time to cook for the first time in years. After decades of mandatory budgeting for a family of five under my belt, the creative know how to make a meal stretch was a happy challenge once again. Nevertheless, I did continue to purchase my $7.00 bottles of wine for my nightcaps, fair-trade organic coffee, and organic vegetables and fruits.

At the end of two months however, savings running lower, and the publishing date for my book kicked out further than anticipated, I began to see more changes were in order; more scaling down was needed.

With every weekly trip to the grocery store—finding myself living in the isolated suburb of Roseville, miles from my friendly and economical Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op of downtown Sacramento—I had to be honest.  Deeper change was in order, even if it was temporary.

Trader Joes completely replaced the Food Co-op, not because of price—the prices are comparible—but because of gas prices and the environmental consideration of driving for 1 1/2 hours compared to 30 minutes.

Things continued to evolve when I discovered one day that I was out of Earl Grey, a necessary part of my afternoon ritual. Okay, it was time to use all of that green tea I had been saving for THIS rainy day. Reluctantly I sucked it up, drinking in THIS abundance. It reminded me of that phrase from the old Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tune, “If you can’t be with the one you want, love the one you’re with!” I rekindled my appreciation for green tea that I had never actually lost, I just liked Earl Grey more.

As time passed, every consecutive weekly trip to Trader Joes became another lesson in this evolution of simpler times. I began seeking $5.00 bottles of wine, then $3.00, and finally, I realized I had hit bottom when I became overjoyed at the discovery of a $1.99 bottle of wine that actually tasted decent! (It is obvious my taste buds are also changing with the times.)

This downward evolution in taste has become even stranger when it comes to beer. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever believe I would settle for the budget beer in a can that my son-in-law had been drinking for years. How could he? How could I?

Then, while on a camping trip with my daughter in the fall, I observed that she too had been changing her ways. I remember how thrilled I was when I found out she had actually brought beer on our trip, something I hadn’t had the heart to add to Simpler Times Lagermy budget at the time. I didn’t even think twice about drinking that beer in a can or consider how it tasted! I was grateful to have it at all! When she told me she got it at Trader Joes for only $2.99 a six-pack, I was floored because in recent months passed, I had become acutely aware of how expensive beer really was. This felt like the deal of the century!

I have to admit with pleasure, that since the beginning of this newer, simpler time, I have gone back to my roots. Waste and overspending has always been unnecessary in my book and I have always been thrifty, but now, even my thriftiness has taken on a new depth. The only places I really have no discipline when it comes to shopping is in bookstores or fabric stores. Now, I stay away from those places too. I have a box filled with sewing projects I am vowing to complete before I buy any more fabric. I actually made a dress last week, sewing something for myself for theNew Dress from Old Throwaway first time in years! As has been my preference for a while, I only buy a book when I know it is a must and I wait for the price to go down first. Though I don’t know if I have the heart to wait for Barbara Kingsolver’s new book, The Lacuna to drop in price. Perhaps that will be my Christmas present to myself! When it comes to my own book sales, hopefully, this trend in thriftiness doesn’t affect them—but I suspect it will. (For this reason, I DO have a special temporary price reduction while I can offer it because I know everyone is counting pennies, not just me!)

Today,the three adults in our household actually have temporary employment to get us through these times, but the budgeting, the simpler view of what we can and cannot live without is sticking with us. My husband enjoys his new business much more than his former one in Sacramento.  He, too is impressed with how much happier he is living with less and how much less complicated his life is today.

I still buy organic spinach, tomatoes, and some fruits. I still insist on organic fair trade coffee, but I have had to compromise when it comes to sharing with my family. I eat what they cook, which means I am eating more meat than I prefer, yet they eat what I cook, which means they are eating more vegetables than they prefer (especially my son-in-law). They now see the simple and healthy value of oatmeal in the morning for the little guy and the security of a pot of beans in the fridge. I now accept a hot dog now and then as a trip down memory lane, instead of a scandal.

I have learned to live without a few movies every weekend and am spending more time reading and writing as a result. Thank goodness the affordable and health promoting walk is ALWAYS available.  I have actually lost weight due to this natural portion control and I am in better shape than I have been in years because exercise is free!!!!

Though, there is one challenge my son-in-law and myself are still mulling around: along with the challenge of getting through this winter without buying any new clothes, my son-in-law (with British roots) has exhausted the black tea in the house, and my green tea is almost gone as well. This is where we both draw the line! Neither he nor I are interested in drinking the large container of assorted “caffeine-free” herbal teas in place of our black or green tea!

Is there anyone out there open to a trade? Herbal for caffeinated tea bags? Our zip code is 95747! We even have Echinacea we are willing to forego for the taste of black-any type of black tea! Leave a comment!

That is my story. These signs of simpler times may not be the best for economic growth, but actually, maybe more environmentally responsible and economical deals of the century for basic staples should be considered for manufacturing instead over the wasteful, unnecessary products of the past! As taken from Chapter 16 in my new book THE NEW PHYSICS OF CHILDHOOD: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies, “When consumers have more options to purchase responsibly made products, they will be more likely to invest in them.” 

Some may argue that this all costs too much, but if we scale back on what we don’t need, we will have more capital, creativity, and energy to design, manufacture, and purchase what we DO need!

I still shop at my favorite Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, just when I am in town about once a month. In time, when I am living closer, it will become preferred store once again, mainly because almost ALL the produce is organic and locally grown with the location of the grower on the product label above each tasty in-season treat. This store is one of the best reasons to live in Midtown or Downtown Sacramento!  Until then, Viva Simpler Times Lager!

WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU MADE DURING THESE SIMPLER TIMES?

Cheers!

 

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Filed under 1, Barbara Kingsolver, Books, camping, Craigslist, environment, Grandchildren, Granny Pants, The New Physics of Childhood, Writing

Jane Goodall-A Contemporary Perspective from A Timeless Advocate!

Jane Goodall with a friendHow wonderful that you came for a visit! You are one of hundreds to do this, all in the name of  Jane Goodall  , whose name triggers either a person’s memory or their deep need to understand what makes this iconic woman tick.   It is obvious from all of the visits to this blog via searches for Jane Goodall that we need more people like her in our world.

Is Jane Goodall still the number 1 leading voice of the need for more human integrity regarding our natural world? More compassionate and visionary voices are needed to drown out the superficial soundbites of popular culture; voices that remind us of what is really at stake with the daily choices we make. Jane Goodall reminds us that ONE person CAN really make a difference! We are ALL that ONE PERSON! Who are you and what do you stand for? I am so curious to know who you are and where your current inquisitiveness about Jane Goodall comes from!

As I enjoy ‘nature walks’ with my 2 1/2 year old grandson Hudson, watching him explore the tiniest living insects, animals and plants wherever we go, I am reminded of where this nature appreciation developed for me. Jane and I both have our work centered around a healthier future for our children and our planet. Much of my work today has been influenced by my childhood exposure to this wonderful woman and her work.  For me, it starts with parents because a parent is the strongest influence in a child’s life, in a child’s value system. Jane Goodall, among others gives me inspiration to continue the immense job of advocating and educating in the name of a better future for our children and our planet, no matter how old I become.

Jane Goodall’s name triggers years of rich, interesting photos and stories I soaked up as a child from my mother’s vast National Geographic collection. I used to dream of what it would be like to live the life of Jane Goodall. In my young impressionable mind, to live with the wild with animals was the ultimate. This young woman was living a dream. But who are the modern environmental heroes that young people today dream of emulating?

In her youth, Jane Goodall taught us about our commonality with the natural world and its inabitants. She introduced us to the humanity of the animal kingdom and developed our compassion for chimpanzees and other animals through years of tireless work and patient study. She touched people of every age and continues to do this today.

In 2009 a lifetime of memories about Jane Goodall’s work came flooding forth in a breathless moment as I was walking through the 2009 Women’s Conference in Long Beach. There she was. The icon, the legend, petite and lithe, graceful and calm. She was being taped during an interview for the conference. A small croud of fans surrounded her, I among them. 

Feeling like a child, I waited for the moment, opened my journal, and quickly askedJane Goodall's Autograph from the 2009 Women's Conference her if she could sign my journal so I could share this moment with my children and grandchildren. She quietly obliged, looking at me a little strangely as if she was thinking,  “What does this have to do with anything?” I thanked her and stepped back, making room for others as I could see this window of opportunity was brief.  Her ‘peeps’ were getting ready to hurry her off to another important affair.

I never know what to say to famous people I admire! In hindsight, I always have a better response; the one I replay in my mind over and over, as if I will ever have a second chance.  Not every famous person leaves me speechless, only those I hold a reverence for, like Jane Goodall! So, this time, instead of dithering about what I should write to her, I will do something different.

Jane’s acceptance speech at the 2009 Minerva Awards this year was the closing speech of the Women’s Conference and well worth every single word. She brilliantly formulated a message that spontaneously included the other winners, her life, and our future as a human race. It was intimate, powerful, inspiring! As a member of Toastmasters International, I am aware of the elements of an exceptional speech.

Jane Goodall  is an incredible speaker, a revolutionary leader, a doer and advocate for the natural world. To honor her work and support her latest project Roots and Shoots, I encourage you to check out: http://www.rootsandshoots.org/ and invite others to do the same. As an inspired young person that literally changed the world’s view of the chimpanzee, Jane Goodall understands the power of youth, especially when it is combined with meaning and inspiration. Now, in her later years she is effectively empowering this generation of youth to be an integral part of the solution. Jane Goodall is synonymous with “change agent.” She knows like so many other memorable leaders, that when we understand our mission on the planet, our work is never done; nor do we every tire of doing it!

If you are a young person, as I was when I first learned about her work, I encourage you to find a way to work with this phenomenol spirit or someone as passionate as Jane is. People like Jane Goodall are rare jewels. You are also invited you to listen to the eloquence of her timeless message. She expresses something we will all benefit from hearing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QlAC5llsOg&feature=channel

Thank you Jane Goodall! I will continue to follow your inspirational leadership and willingness to break through barriers, educate the masses, and to be an effective part of the global solutions we need.

vbn   NEWS FLASH: Since writing this post, a new children’s book has just been published on Jane Goodall’s life. It is beautifully illustrated and effectively, yet simply captures the life of this amazing earth servant: Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps (Written & Illustrated by Jeanette Winter: 2011, Random House).   vbn

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Filed under 1, chimpanzee, environment, Grandchildren, Granny Pants, Jane+Goodall, nature, Parenting, prevention, teaching