Menopause

Giving Back: The Toys Are Escaping!

As time becomes more precious, I find I’m less interested in doing regular volunteer work out of my house. So how to happily give back to a world that’s been good to me and where there’s plenty to be done?

The best volunteer work combines a passion with a need. Since I’ve discovered painting, I’ve wondered how I could combine art with giving. And so, I hope I’m onto something.

I  just finished a series of 16 paintings for the Orange County Historical Museum here in Hillsborough, North Carolina. The museum’s  executive director, Stephanie Pryor, invited me to do the paintings to coordinate with an antique toy exhibit. The exhibit opened April 26 and runs into October. Where’s the giving? I’m donating the paintings.

The paintings are for sale, and the proceeds will support children’s programming at the museum. Large paintings are $65 or two for $100. Small paintings are $40 or two for $70. I’m glad to ship the paintings for an additional $10.

I came up with the idea of toys escaping because maybe, just maybe, toys have dreams and visions too. And maybe, just maybe, they sometimes need a break from the kids who own them. (And I like to think the toys in my paintings come home again.)

Here they are:

Ms. Bear Moves into the Oval Office. 20 by 20.

Snuggle Bunny Escapes the Nursery

Snuggle Bunny Escapes the Nursery.  20 by 16.

Bathub Sailboat Dreams of the Great Lakes

Bathtub Sailboat Dreams of the Great Lakes. 11 by 14.

Paint Set Decorates the Sky on a Gray, Gloomy Day

Watercolor Set Decorates the Sky on a Gray, Gloomy Day. 20 by 16.

Play Dinosaur Morphs into a Real One and Visits the Museum

Play Dinosaur Morphs into a Real One and Visits the Museum. 20 by 20. Sold.

Bunny on Wheels Takes Off

Bunny on Wheels Takes Off. 16 by 20.

Unicorn

Plastic Unicorn Finds a Real Pot of Gold. 14 by 11.

Vintage Sheep and Yoyo Enjoy the Breeze

Vintage Sheep and Yo-yo Enjoy the Breeze. 16 by 20.

Rag Doll

Rag Doll on Her Way to Town for a Store-bought Dress. 12 by 12.

Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope Studies Her Own Shapes in the Mirror. 16 by 20.

The Kittens Stand Guard but Where are the Dolls

The Kittens Stand Guard but Where Are the Dolls? 14 by 14.

Play Dough

Play Dough Flowers in a Play Dough Pot Decorate the Palace of a Real Queen. 12 by 12.

The Marbles Have a Field Day

The Marbles Have a Field Day. 20 by 16.

Rockship

Rocket Ship Heads Straight to Mars. 12 by 24. Sold.

Toy Kitchen

Toy Kitchen Bakes a Cake. 14 by 14.

Xylophone

Xylophone Takes a Bow at Symphony Hall. 14 by 11.

 

You can see more of my work on my art website: BarbaraKYounger.com/art

Flowers and Pot

Menopause

Patience: Letting the Paint Dry

I’ve always thought of myself as someone with a good amount of patience. I’d watch Cliff get upset when we hit a stoplight, and I’d think, Why does he care so much?

I’ve waited months for a child to get the hang of potty training. I’ve waited even more months for responses from agents and editors. All the while, I was calm and plugged on with life and its many projects and pleasures and obligations.

But lately? Now that I’m approaching those golden years, not so much.

I’ve noticed it most specifically since I started painting. Acrylics are forgiving, upbeat paints. You can straighten a crooked edge or put two brilliant colors next to each other or add layers to create texture.

But you’ve got to let the paint dry first. And it dries fast.

So why do I continue to mess up a section of a painting by not letting it dry? Is it that hard to turn to another chore or project for a while?

Sometimes, I think it’s my exuberance for the painting. I can’t wait any longer to see how two colors will look together or if I’ve successfully captured the expression on a seagull’s face.

But sometimes, I think it’s my age. I’ve read that women get less patient as the years add on.

Patience has boded me pretty well in life, so I don’t want to lose it now.

I’m getting stricter about letting the paint dry. “No,” I’ll say to myself. “Go do the dishes. Go upload some bathroom doors.”

Time will tell if I am successful.

How about you? Do you find yourself becoming more or less patient as you age? Any tips to share?

Click here for a great Wiki How article link on how to be more patient.

The two paintings in this post were done for an antique toy exhibit that opens April 26 at the Orange Country Historical Museum. Below you’ll see Snuggle Bunny Escapes the Nursery and Watercolor Set Decorates the Sky on a Gray, Gloomy Day.

Menopause

Thanks to Nicholas: The Power of New

(I wasn’t able to embed the video, but here’s the link.)

Soon after I started painting, I discovered Nicholas Wilton. He’s a generous artist who posts great advice on painting, especially on the approach an artist takes to his or her work.

When I first watched the video, I applied it immediately to my art. I’m a new artist, but I already feel myself needing to be wary of what’s too comfortable. Too easy.

But then I watched the video again.

What else can I change up? Switch out.  Do in the exact opposite way that I always have.

  • Breathing. Well actually, I have been breathing all these years, but I’ve resisted the idea that I can sleep better, think better, react better, if I focus on breath and breathing techniques. I’m taking a mindfulness class at SunStone Wellnes led by Denise DeForest Pastoor. I’m beginning to understand the power of focusing on breath.
  • I bought a rust-colored sweater at the Loft outlet store the other day. Rust is not a color I’m drawn to, but I like my new sweater. I hate cold weather, but this year, I’m trying to get my clothes ready ahead of time so the cold doesn’t shock me so.

rust-rusty-color-code-rgb-hex-html

  • Cliff has gotten me on a kick of eating banana peppers on sandwiches. I don’t think I ever tasted a banana peppers before this year. Talk about a mid-day pick me up!

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What about you? Have you switched things up lately? Were you happy with the results?

And speaking of changing things up, here’s one of my recent paintings. SOME of the blueberries decide they’re tired of being blue. My friend Susan bought my painting at a charity auction. She’s changing to brighter colors in her kitchen.

Three cheers for the power of new! Thanks, Nicholas.

Menopause

Purple Hippos, My Mom, and the Women of Saudi Arabia

 

A post by writer, teacher, traveler, and friend Gwen Bellinger:

Last year while visiting my parents, my mother invited me for a lunch with some of her friends. It was here that Barbara first told me she had started a painting class. About six months later, Barbara had a whole collection of paintings. The lively colors and imaginative subjects give her paintings a playful and quixotic feel. My favorite is a bright purple hippopotamus drinking coffee in front of the Burwell School, a famous historical building in Hillsborough. I have many memories sledding down that hill at the school on snow days.

As much as I love this painting for its vibrancy, its quirkiness, and the nostalgia it brings me for childhood, Barbara’s paintings represent something so much more important for me. In the United States, and around the world, there is a stereotype that “empty nesters,” women whose children grow up and move away, are lonely and bored. I have friends who tell me they can’t move away from their home city because it will destroy their mothers. I don’t know their mothers, but it seems slightly offensive they think their mothers have nothing but their children.

In my experience, women have much more to offer. I think my mom was sad when I went to college, and I know she wasn’t thrilled when I moved to India, but I never got the sense that she suffered serious emotional distress when my sister and I left home. In fact, I think she really blossomed in her creative endeavors. She started making jewelry which she sells at the Art’s Council downtown. She, like Barbara, was a great mother, but also had many individual goals and hobbies.

 

Currently I am working as a freelancer. Sometimes I refer to this as “my business” (after all, I am registered as an LLC) and sometimes as “my hustle.” “Hustle” is an apt descriptor as generally I am completing various editing projects for a number of clients, writing, teaching children English in China from midnight until eight in the morning, and then working with adults across the world to help improve their English conversation.

I have one long-time student, Loay, a man in his thirties originally from Syria and currently living in Saudi Arabia. I consider Loay more as a friend than a student and look forward to our twice weekly conversations. Loay is the type of person I wish everyone could meet. He’s incredibly friendly and open-minded and we’ve had conversations about romantic relationships, the future of online learning, and gender relations in the workplace. He can talk about anything.

We recently discussed women and education in the Middle East. Loay is a huge supporter of gender equality. He told me that when he gets married he will work very hard to make sure he can provide for his wife and make her feel like a princess. At the same time, he wants to be very supportive of her and her career goals. “I don’t want to force my wife to be a housewife,” he told me. He wants his wife to be able to chase her dreams and have a sense of purpose in life.

“Arab culture focuses on the success of the domestic life, the family life. Business life comes second,” he told me. Unfortunately, this means many women who are working have a double responsibility. Their primary charge is the home, then their business. Loay believes men have a responsibility to help their partners achieve success in the working world. Some of his friends in Saudi Arabia have helped their wives establish their own businesses.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is reforming the country. This year, women will finally be able to drive.

In a country where women need permission to travel, work, marry, and study, the independence of movement is a huge gain for women’s rights.[1] In January, women were finally allowed to attend soccer matches. The country’s Ministry of Labor and Social Development concluded that the number of women working in the private sector has increased 130 percent between 2012-2016. [2] They now represent 30 percent of the private sector and the government has spearheaded many initiatives to support working women.[3]

Loay often reminds me that Saudi Arabia is not Syria. In other parts of the Middle East women enjoy many more freedoms than in Saudi Arabia. I’ve seen this from personal experience. In Lebanon, many women were driving, working, completing their Master’s degrees, and living alone. Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative countries in the Middle East. Loay has also reminded me many times that this conservatism and view of women is not inherently Arab or Muslim. It’s the culture of Saudi Arabia, not the entire region.

He concedes though, for all the ways that Saudi Arabia is progressing, it will take a long time to change mentalities. “Businesses prefer men,” he said. “The perception of the society is that business woman are not strong enough to have a great business.” He reminded me this was not his personal view. But due to this mentality, he said, it will only be with government support and much time that things can change. Many still believe a woman’s place is in the domestic space.

These cross-cultural conversations are important for a number of reasons. For one, it helps break down stereotypes and reminds us that the world is a dynamic, changing place. Women are fighting for their rights globally and their male allies can come from many walks of life. It also makes me appreciate my mother and her friends. I told Loay about how these “empty nesters” are so involved in their communities. They are creating art, participating in plays, helping the elderly, running local organizations, writing blogs, volunteering with their churches, tutoring students in French, and helping out with the grandkids.

Women of all ages contribute to society and have so much potential. I’m grateful for the opportunity to know my mother’s inspirational friends, breaking the stereotype that “empty nesters” have empty lives. I’m also grateful for Loay and my other students from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East who can help break the stereotype about gender equality and male mentalities in the Arab World.

Gwendolyn Bellinger is a freelance writer, editor, and English teacher, currently working remotely while exploring the world. Originally from Hillsborough, North Carolina, she has worked and written her away across 50 countries. She currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. You can read more about her adventures at gwengetsglobal.com or inquire about her services at gwendolynbellinger.com

 

 

Sources:

[1] http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/the-truth-behind-the-changing-fate-of-women-in-saudi-arabia/news-story/aa88b71968897df309c65a42e618d201

[2] https://stepfeed.com/130-more-women-are-working-in-saudi-arabia-study-reveals-3366

[3] Ibid.

Photo Credits:

Saudi Women Top:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/92278137@N04/13421558713/ (Flickr, Tribes of the World)

Women2Drive: https://www.flickr.com/photos/92278137@N04/10755435936/in/photostream/ (Flickr, Tribes of the World)

Saudi Women Bottom: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Women2drive_by_Latuff.gif (Carlos Latuff [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

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