Tag Archives: Nevada+County

My Life is Like a Pearl Necklace

bnm(of Itty Bitty Miracles All Strung Together.)    by Christina Ivazes

This story is dedicated to the parents of Joanna Newsom, who nurtured an angel!

 

Although it was obvious there wasn’t much living going on in our living room, I never thought of it as being empty until the morning after that magical night.

The temporary territories we called “home” only contained necessities and usually didn’t include things like couches or coffee tables, and definitely did not include anything decorative hanging on walls. Our family necessities were mattresses, cooking and eating utensils, a few pieces of clothing each and a kitchen table with chairs. As a child, I never questioned the need for more furniture to create the warmth of a home. Our view of what was normal was designed by what we saw and experienced, not by what we did not.

In between homes, my father must have scavenged assorted pieces of furniture quickly to provide us with the basics until we moved onto the next house or apartment. We only carried what we could fit into the trunk of our car and a few toys, though there were still the instinctive and repetitious fights with my siblings over who got the ‘baby spoon’ or ‘baby fork.’ It mattered that whatever it was stood out from the others because in a family of five children, standing out was the ultimate goal and a complete set of matching silverware and dishware was something only Grandmas were made of.

Or perhaps baby spoons and those other coveted objects disguised the fact that there were much deeper terrors in my life. This may also explain why I have guarded a few precious and seemingly insignificant memories, elevating them to the prodigious events of my otherwise tragic childhood recollections.

Something else I should mention is that even though we didn’t have living room furniture in that short-lived Mountain View home in California, we were blessed with two new sets of second-hand bunk beds while we were living there! It felt to me like we had hit the lottery when my parents carried them into our house. I don’t know how they did it. These beds were the first real bedroom furniture for us older kids. One set was made of wood and the other set was metal, which I distinctly remember being painted a pale green. They were each put in a separate bedroom. I remember the thin, green metal railings. I slept on the top bunk because I was the oldest. I must have been about six or seven years old.

Though the arrival of bunk-beds was monumental, it doesn’t compare to the unexpected event that highlights this home like a blazing light in my childhood. And forgive me while I explain a bit more about my father because he was the conductor of this particular event. Daddy was a house painter by trade in those days before he became a chimney sweep. But foremost, he was a musician.

Daddy played the horns. He played trombone, baritone horn, and the trumpet (which he played in the military service). He must have been quite good because when I was older Daddy told stories of two famous brothers who had big bands in the 40’s who were fighting over who would have him in their band. He decided against their offers. He also boasted that Martha Graham had offered him to be her lead musician when she went out on tour, but he turned her down too. Even back then, Daddy’s brilliance was overshadowed by his eccentricities that became the theme of my childhood. Eccentricities that made poverty pale in comparison. Like when Daddy eventually added giant gongs to his instrumentation, but those gongs are yet another story.

Yes, Daddy’s passions lied in his life as a musician. Ironically this same lifestyle, the lifestyle that attracted Mommy to him the night he played at Nepenthe in Big Sur (with Henry Miller in the audience), was where many of their marital problems erupted. As the eldest, I observed and experienced the tensions between Daddy and Mommy more directly than my siblings as Mommy spilled her anger and frustrations onto me in the form of yelling and beatings. All of this going on while Daddy dedicated his evenings to music after a hard day of work.

Though my story takes place in the late 1960’s, Daddy was known as one of the first people to perform during a ‘light show’ for the other counter-cultural Beatniks in San Francisco from the 1940’s. (A light show is a moving picture of swirling food coloring and oil on a projector that is displayed on a screen while spontaneous instrumentation is played in the background, most closely related to the ‘acid jazz’ of our modern era.) Daddy was way ahead of his time with the ‘in crowd,’ so he said, although I never understood any of this stuff until I became an adult. I was just a kid.  I didn’t really understand what he did late at night in the garage with other people that never came into our house, with the exception of this one night.

I recall Daddy asking Mommy for permission to store an item for one of his friends, only overnight. Like a dutiful wife, she complied. Later that afternoon I walked into our stark, white walled living room and saw it. The most beautiful thing I had ever seen illuminated in the far left corner of the room as if it had its own stage lighting. It was a giant, magnificent golden harp as exquisite and curvaceous as a mermaid, as golden as an award’s statue, and as finely strung as if by a hundred angels. I am quite sure I lost my breath. As I moved in to get a closer look, Daddy blurted out in his firm, no messing around manner, “Don’t you dare touch it Christie!” Daddy’s wrath was my biggest fear. He was always the bad guy in every nightmare I had about Mommy and him fighting. The last thing I wanted was for one of those nightmares to become real.

bnj   So, to state the obvious, there was no way I was getting anywhere near that gorgeous instrument; even though I wanted to so bad I could feel it resonating throughout my entire being. I just planted myself on the bare wooden floor in the opposite corner of the room and studied it.

A child’s active imagination is an amazing pool of creative wealth and mine was extremely active in those days. My school report cards were speckled with comments about too much ‘daydreaming in class.’ In this particular moment, my eyes glued to the harp, I was liberated to daydream without teacher retribution. Familiar cartoon images of angels playing harps started racing through my mind. I envisioned full-sized and feather light angels dressed in gossamer fabric playing sweet melodies that drifted off in never ending sonorous threads. The imagined sounds and physical dimensions of this instrument seemed larger than life and much grander than I had ever realized the influence of a harp could be. It sounded luscious. It glowed profusely, filling the entire room with its beauty. It became my refuge, offering me a perfect and tiny, yet infinitesimal moment of peace through my eyes and imagination.

Today, I can only speculate that that was one night where I truly had sweet dreams, instead of the ritual nightmares of Mommy and Daddy fighting. Nightmares that always left me in a urine soaked sweat by morning. But on that following morning I wasn’t wet. Without hesitation, I jumped up and raced into the living room to greet my wonderful new friend.

My heart sank.  It was gone, taking my dreams away with it; taking its golden light from my otherwise dark reality. The living room was no longer a stage. It was just a barren, cold living room again, like the dozens of other barren, cold living rooms throughout my childhood. How I wished I had secretly snuck up to touch and strum those magical strings just once, to leave the room with its real, everlasting echoes of angels. Why didn’t I? I knew why.

But the feeling of its soothing sound and its golden glow beaming from the corner of our gallery stark living room will always sit inside me, illuminating a corner of my mind with magic and surprise. I had been very lucky and I knew it. I had been graced with the potential of the ever appearing surprises life offers when you least expect them. To this day, whenever I see a golden harp, I am transported. That warm glow becomes the present and I thank the harp for offering refuge to the little girl in me and for the proof in the miracles of possibility.

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Filed under childbirth, creativity, culture, Families, Fathers, Grandparents, Granny Pants, mother, music, Writing

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