A day of art making with my three year old

painring

My three and a half year old and I just finished a painting that we had started yesterday. The light and dark blue clouds, the brown explosion in the background and the blue vertical line in the middle are all his. There was some negotiation towards the end. He wanted to paint over the whole image with blue paint but by that time I had already fallen in love with what we had done. So we negotiated a compromise which was that he painted over my leaves and then we both then used the end of our paint brushes to scrape the leaves back into the painting.

Later that day my son made himself some clay shoes. He came running around the comer into the kitchen wearing them saying “Mama I made myself slippers”. We tried to make me a pair but alas there was not enough clay.

clay shoe

The arts have value – $1600 dance video project that helps the IRS employees boost moral sounds cost effective to me

130531182757-irs-video-story-top

I think spending $1600 on a dance video project that helps the IRS employees boost moral is well spent money. A stress relieving dance project like this probably reduces health insurance spending and number of sick days logged and is therefore very cost effective.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/31/first-on-cnn-irs-on-defense-over-employee-dance-video/

Artsy Parent Contest. Enter to win a copy of my new book “The Healing Dance”

For email #D with pages cropped

Who is the contest for?
Calling all “artsy parents”.
I define an “artsy parent” as anyone who values creativity in their parenting choices.

How do I enter?
Send a short description or example of how you are an artsy parent. You are welcome to send as many as you like. Each separate description is considered to be one entry. You can send your entry to me via email kathleenrea@rogers.com or through the comments to this post or through my Facebook account. Posts about adult kids as well the little ones, are welcome. Please start all posts with “I know I am an artsy parent when…”

Here are some examples:
“I know I am an artsy parent when…”

– I bump into my three year old accidently while he is building Lego and he says “Mama you ruined My Vision”.

– I don’t have any branded toys in the house for fear they will interfere with my children’s creativity.

– I dig up a patch of my garden so my three year old can have his own mud pit because I read that mud is the #1 top creativity-promoting toy.

– My adult daughter rebels against her unconventional “artsy” upbringing by becoming a high stakes banker.

– My child shows up for a family wedding wearing a tie-die shirt, different colour socks, pajama bottoms and a bumble bee hat because I let her choose her own outfit.

What will you do with the entries?
All entries be put in a “hat” and I will pull the winner out of the hat.
I will also be writing a fun blog about artsy parents in the new year. If you enter your post might be included in the article.

What will the winner receive?
The winner will receive a copy of my new book The Healing Dance. See book info at http://www.the-healing-dance.com.

When does the contest close?
The contest closes on July 01, 2014 after which time the winner will be chosen

Wyatt with brush pointing my pic cropped out

Robbie Wychwood Interview with Expressive Arts Therapist Kathleen Rea

Fire Warming Light by Kathleen Rea

Robbie Wychwood from The Sacred Fire Blog, sat down to interview me just after the launch of my book The Healing Dance: The Life and Practice of an Expressive Arts Therapist. Robbie is a singer/songwriter who has a passion for creative and sustainable living. He is also a painter, writer and ecstatic dancer. He is currently being mentored as a spiritual counselor in pagan traditions. After several previous interviews with hosts who had not read my book, it was refreshing to talk with someone so well informed and passionate about expressive arts. He will be posting the interview two parts.

Here is an excerpt from part one:

 I made it out to celebrate the launch of Kathleen Rea’s book, ‘the Healing Dance’ at Café Arts and the Norman Felix Gallery in Toronto.

The gallery was packed with Kathleen’s family, friends, mentors, peers, students and fans. During her introduction Kathleen’s sister, Lovisa commented “only Kathleen could have a book launch like opening night for one of her shows.” Indeed it was a wonderful evening of art, readings, and with original music performed by Kathleen’s long-time friend, Ariel Brink.

Her former ISIS Canada-mentor, Steven K. Levine started the evening with a lovely, heartfelt endorsement, saying “this book demonstrates to me that my student, Kathleen, might know more about being an Expressive Arts Therapist than I do.”

Having anticipated this book for some time I was blown away by how captivating it was. Kathleen’s tells a very personal, deeply moving, and powerfully transforming story.

I caught up with her a couple of weeks later in her home for the following interview.

 Robbie Wychwood (RW): I was at the book launch and it was a wonderful gathering. It is wonderful to see this book come out knowing the story, and that it was a big project for you. So I would like to start there. There are many arts to Kathleen Rea, the artist, the dancer, the choreographer, the ballet company director, the expressive arts therapist… and now Kathleen Rea, the author. Tell us about becoming an author, and the process. I gather this was not an easy book to write?

 Kathleen Rea (KR): The book began as my Master’s Thesis which I actually started in 2000. There was two years of writing even before I thought I should make this Master’s Thesis into a book.

 Read more at:
http://robbiewychwood.blogspot.ca/2013/01/an-interview-with-dancer-therapist.html

A retro Lego project that just might help your son or daughter become an aerospace engineer

I have been reading the book  Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, by author Stuart Brown. In Chapter One, he tells the story of how Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a premier aerospace research facility, discovered the importance of hands-on creative play. After a crop of older engineers retired, JPL hired top graduates from top engineering schools as replacements. But they discovered that this new group of engineers were lacking in a certain type of problem solving that was critical to their job. While they could grapple with complex mathematical  theories, they lacked the innovative thinking that was needed to build aerospace robots that needed to adapt to different conditions. JPL wanted to find out what they needed to look for during their hiring process that would ensure they only hired innovative engineers.  After doing some research and talking with their retired engineers, they discovered the difference between the two groups. The older engineers, when growing up, had made soap box derby racing cars, created hi-fi stereos, and fixed appliances, while the younger engineers had done none of this type of creative hands-on-play.  JPL came to the conclusion that engineers who worked and played with their hands as they were growing up were able to see unique solutions, while those that had not worked with their hands could not. In their hiring process JPL began to include questions about youthful projects and play.

As a parent reading this, I realised how important it is to provide my son with creative hands-on-play. My next question was: what was the best way to offer him these types of opportunities? My son is only three so I am not going to let him dismantle and rebuild our coffee-maker just yet. The answer came with an old box of LEGO that my mother-in-law found in her basement.

My husband, my son and I are now deeply engaged in creative LEGO play.  I am not referring to buying a LEGO kit and following the directions exactly. While building models with a step-by-step guide can be fun, I do not think it fosters creative problem solving. I do believe that building something from LEGO that no one has ever seen before does.

This brings me to my project of building a LEGO fire station with my son. It combines two of my favorite  things: re-using old objects and creative play.  

I have some step-by-step advice for you if you want to try this at home:
PROJECT
1) FIND OLD LEGO. Find someone who used to build LEGO when young and try to locate their OLD stash (note it is usually in a basement and under lots of stuff
2) EXTRACT OLD LEGO. Approach old LEGO boxes with care. The box my mother-in-law found disintegrated upon touch because the plastic box was so old.
3) WASH OLD LEGO. Your Old-LEGO might look very dirty and even might be moldy. Put Old-LEGO into washing machine with some Oxi- Clean and let soak overnight. Then put LEGO through a wash on the delicate cycle (no spin dry) and lay out on towels to dry.
4) RESIST NEW LEGO. This is a tough one. For instance, when my son and I were recently in a LEGO store I was pining for the $150.00 fancy NEW LEGO fire station. I had to keep telling myself that our OLD LEGO would make a fine fire station.

lego-city-7945-fire-station-1
New expensive LEGO that I managed to resist buying

5) DESIGN AND BUILD your Old-LEGO fire station, hopefully with someone young to help bring up important design considerations  such as, “Mama, what if a monster takes the fire fighters hats?” and, “where will the fire fighters put their juice glasses

Here is how our project turned out:
20130125_104535

20130125_104620 cropped
Please notice detail of fire hat storage, high enough up that monsters can’t steal the hats. Also detail of the space in the truck, inbetween the seats, for the fire-fighter’s juice glasses. And finally the fire truck that my son built all on his own (the smaller one next to the ladder).

Lessons learned for all participants:
1) Yes you really can wash LEGO in your washing machine.
2) Reusing/recycling rather than buying new helps reduce landfill and saves you money.
3) Creating something unique with your hands can be fun and help young ones develop creative problem solving abilities.

My one word of caution is that this project may distract you from your everyday activities.  I had so much fun building our LEGO fire station that I totally lost track of time. I ended up leaving only fifteen minutes  to get my son and myself dressed and ready to leave to go meet a friend. Anyone who has ever been around a toddler knows that is an almost impossible feat!

Play well my friends.

My world + your world = our world

for-hands-for-web-wide

At a shopping centre food court where I was having lunch there  was a pregnant woman, trying to eat a sandwich while her two-year-old was tearing around the place. She kept running after him and picking him up and bringing him back to the table. I felt for her. I realised she was pregnant with twins when I heard her say “Max, I’m starving. Please sit so I can feed your sisters”. The next time her son ran away I knelt down to see if I could play peekaboo with him to give her enough time to get a few mouthfuls in. She came rushing over, saying “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t see that he had run that far.” She scooped him back in her arms and took him back to the table. I was sad that she was so defensive but I understood. If it was me with my son I would have probably taken it the same way. I hovered around for a few seconds pondering another attempt. I thought of sitting at her table and seeing if I could entertain him, but I lost my courage and went on my way to the court house where I was waiting to possibly be selected for jury duty.

At the court house I sat with my group of thirty jury selection panel members in silence while they shuffled us around to three different rooms. People were mostly checking their smart phones. It was not until the third hour that chit-chat broke through our private worlds… “the bathroom light isn’t working”…  “are we getting a break soon?”… “I’m starving”.  The comments were banal, but they had potential to blossom into the type of fun that comes from a shared hardship. But then one by one we were pulled from the room to face the judge and lawyers until I was the only one left.

My craving for community is a yearning that takes courage to fill. I am part of some wonderful communities like the contact dance community in Toronto, but I want more. I crave a sense of my tribe in my day-to-day existence. I want to find the courage to create community wherever I go, whether it’s a mom who needs help or a bored jury selection panel. I need to reach out past that invisible line of “my world” and “your world” and see what happens.

Writing From The “Wrong Side of The Brain”

As a professional dancer, I can form my body into a prefect pirouette.  But when I write, my words arrive on the screen so garbled that spell-check can’t even recognize them. I rewrite the word over and over again in slightly different ways until spell-check finally recognizes what I am trying to say.

I have known that I have a learning disability since I was young, and became ingenious at hiding it. I was ashamed to ask for help and ashamed to let anyone know. Luckily in my job as a dancer, writing was not needed. It wasn’t until I quit ballet at the age of 30 and went back to school to study expressive arts therapy that I built up the courage to be tested. I was diagnosed with limited working memory. Working memory is defined by researcher Alan Baddeley as “brain systems that provide temporary storage and manipulation of the information necessary for such complex cognitive tasks as language comprehension, learning, and reasoning.” Working memory is like a “desk top” in your brain upon which you organize your thoughts. My desk top is too small to even be considered a desk. It can barely hold any word longer than three letters. Half way through writing a word, I become lost in letters, and the result is illegible. So, what is someone so profoundly handicapped in writing doing in Open Book: Toronto?  Charles C Thomas Publisher is currently publishing my book, The Healing Dance: The Life and Practice of an Expressive Arts Therapist, and Open Book: Toronto has offered me the chance to share my process.

During my learning disability testing, I scored highest in the ability to complete a task. That is a nice way to say that I am incredibly stubborn and rarely give up. I began writing my book in 2002, with the goal of describing my work as expressive arts therapist. Expressive arts therapy is the career I chose after being forced to quit dancing due to cartilage damage in my knees. It is a form of psychotherapy in which the client and therapist communicate with each other not just through talking, but through dance, poetry, music and visual arts. In my practice, I worked intuitively. I define intuition as knowing something without actually knowing how you know it. In writing my book, I was trying to explain concepts that I didn’t actually know how I knew with very little space on my desk top to organize my thoughts. My first drafts were virtually unreadable. I plastered my actual desk with yellow sticky notes that acted as the desk space I was missing in my brain. I had to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until the concepts that kept falling off my way too small desk top finally began to organize themselves on their own. I had dreams in which the just-right description of a concept would arrive. I would wake and then run to my computer and write something like this: “If ioen seranches for creats aert for brastly sake then the chalisling will antaige any possibly of beatruy arribe because beaty is somethst that aaribes sunexectign and sursprsices uss.” I would sigh and then begin the task of un-garbling my words. I began to gravitate towards story telling as a way to describe expressive arts theories because the emotional thread running through a story helped order my writing. As clarity arrived, my learning disorder became even more frustrating because my ideas started arriving with great speed, but I was trying to catch them with a net with huge holes in it.

Five years into this process, my writing started to give me the same sort of adrenaline rush that dancing on stage gave me. I began to miss my book when I couldn’t spend time working on it. I had been working on it for so long, it had become my companion — a companion that I felt needed to meet the world. To help me believe this would happen, I took one of my favourite books and taped my name and book title over the author’s. I put this mock-up on my desk and every time I looked at it, felt joy at the thought that my book was going to be published. This helped to override the shame of having a learning disorder that made it difficult to believe I could write a book. I started to send my manuscript to publishers and editors. I got some interest, but no takers. Ten years after I started writing, my book started to feel complete but I still did not have a publisher. I decided to hire a professional editor and self-publish the book. However, I continued to send my manuscript to publishers. One month before my self-published version was due to be released on Amazon, I received two publishing offers in one week.  I accepted an offer from Charles C Thomas, and now the real book sits on my desk. 
I share with you my final words that end my book: 


In my forties, I am surprised to discover that I am a writer. With my learning disorder, I have struggled with writing my whole life. But a persistent need to document my way of working had been following me, like someone tapping on my shoulder. From the chaos of my dyslexic words, this book gradually emerged and I fell in love with writing. I am the crippled dancer who can no longer leap. I am the crippled writer whose words stumble along for years before finding grace. Through the process of writing this book, the message I discovered and rediscovered again and again, is that our humanity and beauty are in our imperfections. And that’s my final “wrod.”

 

 

Professional Mourners

The Mourning Flower Blossoms by Kathleen Rea

The Mourning Flower Blossoms by Kathleen Rea

I am halfway through reading “The Loss That Is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father” by Maxine Harris.

In the book, Harris describes the custom of having professional mourners at funerals. She explains how many cultures believe that crying and weeping and feeling one’s pain is a fundamental step in the grieving process. So much so that at funerals, the grieving family and friends are joined by a group of professional mourners whose sole responsibility is to make sure that family members feel their feelings. When a professional mourner sees a family member trying to supress their emotions, they move closer to them and start wailing and saying phrases they think the family member is thinking, such as “I am angry that you left me”.  This inevitably draws the family member back to the experience of their emotions and helps them avoid the devastating numbness that can occur if they fail to grieve in an embodied manner.

 In Expressive Arts Therapy, the beat of a drum, the sweep of a paint brush or the ecstatic dance are the “wail” of a professional mourner calling someone home to themselves.

As a parents, we can also be professional mourners by giving our children space to experience their emotions.

On the weekend, my son and I were at a play centre in which the kids put on construction outfits and were building a house with foam bricks and shingles. My three year old tripped over another mother’s foot and starting wailing for me, “Mama….Mama”, with big tears in his eyes. He was grieving his own vulnerability and grieving the fact that I was not within arm’s reach. The mother who had accidently tripped him picked my son up and said, “Stop crying. Construction workers don’t cry”.

I was sad that someone would so quickly dismiss my son’s need to cry. The experience made me think about how important it is for me to be a professional mourner for my son—to give him space and encouragement to feel his feelings in the face of a world that so often will tell him that men do not cry.

Reference:
Harris, M. (1996).  The Loss That Is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father. Plume/Penguin Group, NY, NY.

Creating with recycled objects

Star
This year our holiday star from previous year was broken so I got three pie plates and I made this. It took about half an hour. It felt so good the make something rather that run to the store and be a consumer. My three year old son “helped” by sitting by my side and cutting up little piece of tin. We made a beautiful thing with our hands from recycled objects and found joy in doing so.