This holiday season, I am reminded even more of the importance of exercising compassion and empathy.
I shouldn’t have to be homeless to imagine the bitterness of winter temperatures for those who have no roof over their heads and no bed with fluffy pillows and a down comforter to keep them warm at night. I don’t have to miss meals to feel the nausea, lethargy, and distraction from not having enough nourishment in my belly.
I don’t have to experience the anxiety of pulling out a bank receipt that shows a balance that won’t (in any stretch of the imagination) be enough to cover the monthly bills, or worse, seeing a negative balance to sympathize with those who are unemployed or still struggling in the current economy. I shouldn’t have to experience cancer to empathize with someone who’s going through chemo and radiation therapy.
I don’t have to care for an elderly parent, say goodbye to a friend struck down by disease, or bury a murdered child to have my heart break, or to reach out to comfort, hug, hold, and support a family member, a friend, or a stranger who has lost someone essential to their lives.
For Americans, our season of officially giving thanks begins on the third Thursday of November, Thanksgiving. Oftentimes, with the stress of planning and preparing feasts; purchasing gifts or stressing about finding extra money to purchase gifts or going without gifts; end-of-the-year additional work and subsequently extra hours at our jobs; attending holiday school performances, work parties and social get-togethers; dealing with family dynamics or having no family at all—it can be difficult to remember that this is a time for giving.
This season, I am reminding myself to give—with consciousness and clarity, discharging my stresses and anxieties (even if temporarily), so that I may give freely and openly, without judgment or expectation.
When a friend’s stress is overwhelming, I tell myself, ‘Cut your errands short and lend an ear, turn off your phone, and pull your sleeve down over your watch face.’
Painting by Lisa Monica Nelson
When my eyes sting because they’re so tired and all I want is to get that next load of damn laundry folded and the dishes cleaned before I call it a day, and my child calls for…me, I let the laundry wait and leave the never-ending chores to remain undone a bit while longer. I go to my daughter, curl up in the bed with her, and release the day from my mind so that the only world of which I’m aware is the child right in front of me.
When a wee tiny wisp of an elderly woman spends 20 minutes mailing a package while the line at the post office extends past the door and down the steps, I tell the person in front of me that I like her intriguing coat and then we move on to how we will be spending our holidays and to whom we are mailing our packages. Finally, I simply wait my turn, mentally sending good wishes to the old woman with her cane, her hand shaking as she writes her check, her lips quivering as she tries to get her words out, and know that I, too (with luck), shall reach her age and deal with the consequences of old, old age.
This season, I remind myself to take that unwrapped gift to the local firehouse, take the end-of-the-day extra baked goods from my favorite bakery and drop it off at the food bank, and prepare to hand out lunch bags of turkey sandwiches, cucumber wedges and holiday cookies to my neighborhood homeless like my daughter, ex-husband and I used to do when we lived in Hollywood. Show people, tell them, ‘You are not alone; I see you.’
Sometimes, the whys and wherefores don’t matter, the old baggage, the open wounds. Sometimes I need to push myself past what grips me in hurt and pick up the phone, call an estranged sibling and say, simply, “I love you.” Issues don’t magically disappear, but the freely offered sentiment can open a way forward, even if just for that moment.
The odds are, if we all give, then we shall all receive.
Give with a free, loving heart, and receive in the same way. I remind myself that when someone brings me an unexpected gift—a tin of holiday cookies, a card, a phone call, or even a hug—to receive that gift with a thankfulness that seeps throughout my every inch. Don’t flick it aside with, “Oh, you shouldn’t have,” or “But, I didn’t get you anything.” Welcome his gift and his thoughtfulness. Let it fill and soothe, nurture and replenish.
We need the love and compassion of others, especially when tragedy hits so close to the holidays. Let’s not shy away from it, from the pain and loss, but embrace each other and help each other stand up. We are only alone if no one reaches out, if no one offers a hand…or if the offered hand is not taken.
Let this holiday season be a time of selfless giving, true compassion and empathy, honest love and kindness, and altruistic benevolence.
Let our humanity excel and radiate—in the way we give and receive, share and comfort, support and love our children, family, friends, and neighbors, as well as our beloved towns, cities, country…and our precious world.
Every stranger is a potential friend.
Open your heart.
Love is essential.
Copyright © Kat Ward, 2012 at Hometown-Pasadena.com
Hollywood & Appa
Last Saturday saw a march of pets that were adorable, handsome—and dressed in tutus.
One Colorado held a pet day in its courtyard and welcomed the Fun & Furry-licious, the Dressed to the Hilt, and Tricksters.
The “celebrant of kitsch pop culture” Charles Phoenix—in is his eye-popping patterned pants and light blue (not suede) shoes—MC’ed the event, and drew a lot of pet attention (see below).
- Hollywood & Appa in their new threads (check out what’s catching Appa’s eye)
- Appa: Hmmm, these shoes look kinda nice…
- The lone bunny contestant who stayed safely in its owner’s embrace
- Bella & Elysee
© 2012 Kat Ward
A post I wrote for Hometown Pasadena, followed by the actual event. Anyone interested, I encourage you to bring it to your city or town—this is very cool.
For three weeks at 30 locations around Southern California, 30 pianos will be available to interested and eager fingers. Anyone may sit and play (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) as part of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra celebration of music director Jeffrey Kahane’s 15th anniversary.
This free public art installation will launch on Thursday, April 12th with 30 pianists on 30 pianos—playing simultaneously—performing the complete prelude from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier.
Each piano has been decorated, used as “three dimensional canvases.” Artists range from the well-known muralist Kent Twitchell and Columbian-American artist Frank Cubillos to one painted by Homeboy Industries, one by the Armory Center for the Arts, and one designed by L.A. Chamber Orchestra staff member Caroline Shuhart and painted by children of LACO musicians.
Piano by the L.A. Chamber Orchestra & Their Children
LACO Executive Director Rachel Fine says, “With the pianos serving as blank canvases upon which people can share their own creativity, we look forward to hearing our neighbors, co-workers, and other fellow Angelenos play these instruments. Beyond solo playing, we encourage choirs, bands, other musical ensembles and even dancers to incorporate rehearsals or jam sessions at the piano sites. Some people may seek out all 30 pianos to see the different locations as well as the unique visual aspects of each instrument. The pianos are there to be enjoyed by everyone.”
Pianos can be found—and enjoyed—locally at One Colorado in Old Pasadena, the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, and Vroman’s Bookstore courtyard.
“Play Me, I’m Yours,” originated by British artist Luke Jerram, has already been performed on 500 pianos in 22 cities, involving 22 million people around the world.
“Play Me, I’m Yours”: 30 Pianos, 30 Locations
Launch: Thursday, April 12th, Noon
Locations: One Colorado, Pas. Conservatory of Music & Vroman’s courtyard
Installation up 24/7 through May 3rd
For more info, visit streetpianosLA.com
Artist Gino Gaspara: photo by Armory Center for the Arts
Gino Gaspara; photo by Armory Center for the Arts
Artist Gino Gaspara With His Finished Piano; photo by Armory Center for the Arts
Yesterday at noon, I went to One Colorado in Old Pasadena to see and listen:
Mark Robson, pianist
© 2012 Kat Ward
The Cactus Gallery in Eagle Rock CA is having a doll exhibit.
This isn’t your ordinary doll exhibit.
No porcelain skin with bright red lips and generic features. No period ball gowns with petticoats and bloomers.
These are works of art; creative, imaginative, edgy, out-of-the-box works of art.
This style is not for everyone, but I couldn’t get enough.
What’s your reaction?
Viva La Vida Frida by Lov Struk
Florence the Flapper by Christine Benjamin
Your the One Devil by Ulla Anobile
Dorian Grey by Vega
Princess for a Day & Tristan by Sheri DeBow
Shaman by Carol Reynolds
Trudy by Keeley Benkey Reichman
Visigoth Warrior Woman by Lulu Moonwood Murakami
Maddy Calakita by Lov Struk
St. Rose of Lima (music box) by Christy Kane
Ulla & Faith (music box) by Christy Kane
Cpt Pirate Penelope by Christine Benjamin
Frank's Bride by Lov Struk
In Full Bloom by Ulla Anobile
Thanks to Sandra Mastroianni, owner of Cactus gallery. For info and pricing, visit cactusgallery.blogspot.com.
© “Cactus & Dolls” post and photos by Kat Ward
Pasadena Doo Dah Parade 2011 (Xinhua/Qi Heng)
Do you have a craving, a secret aspiration, or a hidden desire…to be Queen?
This Sunday, April Fools Day—which is very appropriate—are the tryouts for the 35th Occasional Pasadena Doo Dah Parade Queen.
This “caucus” will be held at the American Legion Bar (again, very appropriate…or maybe it’s not, which is entirely appropriate!). Check-in begins at 3 p.m., with tryouts from 4:30-7, and the crowning of this year’s queen will be at 7:30.
Past Queens like Tequila Mockingbird, Naughty Mickie and Skittles will be on hand, and musical entertainment will be provided by Snotty Scotty and the Hankies, Horses on Astroturf, and the Doo Dah House Band. Cheap drinks, a smoking patio, pool, crock pot chili, and dancing all awaits those eager to tryout, support, or even heckle—which is officially endorsed.
2008 Doo Dah Queen Naughty Mickie
Potential Doo Dah Queen’s will have only a few minutes to impress the judges; entrants shouldn’t ignore how much a well-timed beer into the hands of a judge or judges may help garner votes; creativity and humor rule in this arena.
Uncle Fester: photo by Greg Foster
The Doo Dah Parade itself will be held on Saturday, April 28th, beginning at 11 a.m. on the streets of East Pasadena. The great honor of being Grand Marshall is held by retiring Pasadena Public Information Officer Ann Erdman.
“If there’s anyone who walks to the beat of her own drum and appreciates a good laugh, it’s Ann,” said Tom Coston, head of Light Bringer Project, producers of the parade since 1996. Over the years, Erdman has led marchers dressed as a flower child, a motorcycle mama, a baby in a giant high chair, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and Elvis.
So, find your inner goofy, silly and superlatively creative—you never know, you may become Queen for a day.
The 35th Occasional Pasadena Doo Dah Parade Queen Tryouts
American Legion Bar, 179 N. Vinedo St., between Walnut and Colorado Blvds.
Sunday, April 1st. Check-in at 3 p.m.; tryouts are 4:30-7 p.m.
Cost: $5 cover to the Legion’s charity, though 1st 20 Queen hopefuls get in free
Full cash bar
Trying out? Call 626.590.1134
For more info and entry forms, visit Pasadena Doo Dah Parade
Amy’s Own has been published! To see if you are intrigued by the story and like my style of writing, the first 3 chapters are available for sampling here.
Amy’s Own may be purchased as an ebook through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, and as an ibook through Apple’s iTunes. Print books may be purchased from Amazon or directly from the author.
To all who shell out the $2.99 for the ebook or splurge and spend $14.99 on a print copy, I say thank you, grazie mille, and l’chaim!
Please feel free to share you thoughts, comments, and criticisms. Leave a comment here or email katwardphoto(at)msn.com. I look forward to hearing from you…
17 March 2012: It’s been a while. These past months, in addition to shooting headshots and writing for Hometown Pasadena (thank you, Colleen!), I have been immersed in helping organize a book festival for Pasadena, CA.
LitFest Pasadena was scheduled for today, Saturday, March 17th. I have time to sit in front of my computer because even though our winter has been quite dry, a weekend storm decided to dump a lake-full of rain and plunge the temperature into the low 50′s (way too cold for us thin-skinned Southern Californians!). We have postponed the event to May 12th as the Old Farmer’s Almanac states that rain has only fallen once in the last ten years on that day, and it won’t be too close to the massive, size-of-a-little-city event that’s called the L.A. Times Festival of Books, which is in April.
Fingers crossed for date #2.
The upside is that in having a deadline for LitFest, my partners and I at Lovely pubs, our new indie publishing company, have finished our first products.
Lori Bertazzon already has her Where Are You Stuck? self-help workbook that’s selling and going strong. Her husband, Kevin Bertazzon, in addition to ISMS: A Faery Mobster Story, now has his graphic novel Too Bubbly printed which looks amazing and is laugh-out-loud funny; and I have finally finished—and printed—my novel Amy’s Own.
A paperback copy is ready with your name on it!
Amy’s Own is $14 plus shipping, which runs $6. If you have any questions, you can email me at katwardphoto(at)msn(dot)com.
I’d like to make this post longer, but my brain is fried, and not in a tasty grilled cheese kind of way.
I’ve been having the time of my life finishing the book and working on LitFest, but it’s been heaps more work than I thought it would be, and this here almost 1/2 century ol’ body of cells is not what it once was. Time is a creepin’ and a sneekin’ up on meh! So, I’m hunkering down for the rest of the weekend in hopes of recouping some essential vigor. I’ll be in touch…