Most people that know my mom know that she spent over 20 years in the mental health field.  It took her to the brink of sanity on many occasions.  Especially the last five years, I could just tell that my mom was soooo very unhappy. I would always ask her if it was really worth it to wait it out. She just kept her eyes on the prize of retirement.  

What most people don’t know is that my mom is an artist.  She draws. She sings. She painted a beach scene on my sister’s wall when I was little that I’ve never forgotten.  She likes to put all of her kids’ creative success solely on their fathers.  She is such a creative person, but to raise four kids, lived in art-less, uninspired ‘mom-survival mode.’  So many moms I know do this!  She not only downplayed her artist instinct but she almost squelched it like a bad memory.  You would never know by the way she lived her life.  Now that she is in retirement she seems happy as a little clammy jay bird! She has redecorated and repainted parts of the house.  She’s actually taking the time to breathe and think about herself for once, a relief to all of her kids.

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I Relaxed the Day After Christmas.

 

I’m on the phone with her this week and she tells me she took a ‘sip and paint’ class– one of those classes where you get to paint a picture and drink wine.  She thought it was so  much fun but was slightly annoyed that there were lines on the canvas to stay within, and that she couldn’t paint her tree the way she wanted.  Finally, she just resolved that she was was just going to paint her tree the way she wanted anyway!  There was a hint of law-breaking rebel in her voice that I adored.  HELLO, ARTIST MUCH!!??? Most people are SO content to stay within the lines and do it ‘right’ so that they have a pretty picture to instagram.  Just the idea that my mom got out of the house to do something creative made me soooo very happy (and happy for the other folks there creating, too!) She said it inspired her to buy some paints and a canvas. WHAT IS HAPPENING?!!!

Can you imagine if my mom locked herself in a room once a day and actually did something creative for herself the past 20 years?  How much happier she probably would have been?  

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I Planted My Garden

 

This Inspiration tab is for sharing stories that I find  courageous, brave and inspirational, for sure, but I also created this page for the Artists, Creatives and Creators.   I believe wholeheartedly that there is an artist in all of us.  Maybe we’re not all Picassos but who cares!?  That is the point.   We all are uniquely creative and have a muse inside us that loves to create for the joy of it.  If you watch ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ you realize even a career in raw fish can be inspiring. 

I believe our culture has trained us to look at creativity and artistry as frivolous, totally selfish, unpractical and unnecessary, an utter tragedy in my mind.  How many mid life panic attacks do we have to have, second homes do we have to buy to keep ourselves happy and socially ‘okay?’  What if part of that hole that needs filling is creation?  The joys of childhood that were stifled with words like ‘responsibility’ and ‘logic’ and ‘career’ and ‘success.’  Most of us, myself included, are perfectionists… “If I can’t do it perfectly, what’s the point?” or “If it’s not amazing art, I shouldn’t share it.” What about the tried and true-less: “It’s just too late to start that now.”

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I Self-Cared In a Warm Bath of Epsom Salts.

 

Creating art isn’t about finding self worth in our ‘likes’ or in the money we make as artists.  It is about the joy that it brings us– which is far from frivolous, if anything it helps maintain our balance as humans.  We also can’t wait for everything to be perfect before we begin. How can we ever become great artists if we aren’t creating regularly?  For every photo I like, I’ve taken 200 photos I’ve hated.  Get me? Maybe in ten years, I’ll have one great photo.  But I am so happy to live for that one great photo. 

Take a moment to think about how amazing this planet would be if more people concerned themselves less with clean houses, making money, being martyrs to their families, letting fear rule, <insert a million other excuses here>, and just created?  Shared it fearlessly and without expectation? Art, music, books, photos, gardens, trifles, pottery, drum lessons, landscaping, dance classes, etc, etc, etc… 

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I Took Photos of Our Kittens Rather Than Murder Them For the Mess They Made

 

This year I started working on a series of photos I’ve titled ‘The Mess Series.’  It occurred to me just how much time I spend cleaning each day and how little time I spent doing something creative.  The clutter constrains me, I say.  Well, bullshit.  I decided I wasn’t going to do that to myself anymore.  Out of self and creative care, it was no longer allowed.  Rather than clean, I take a picture of the mess and the title becomes what I’ve done instead.  It is a work in progress but a series that has really helped me to put my inner artist first, find peace in the chaos (a great practice for life anyway!) and kick my excuses to the curb. 

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I Hiked Maple Pass

These photos are some of the un-award winning pictures I’ve been taking.  It also helps me deal with being comfortable in my own skin as messes are personal, can be judged and posting them can feel vulnerable.  A statement for how we live our lives really.  I hope they inspire you to put aside your own excuses and create. This series is a work in progress so most of these won’t end up in the final project, I would imagine.  But because they mean something to me as an artist, they are worth sharing for now to make a point.  THINGS THAT MEAN SOMETHING TO US ARE WORTH SHARING, HOMIES!!! 

At the very least, CREATE.  Okay, rant over.  🙂  

I have a HUGE fire under my butt this upcoming year– not to accomplish but to create.  For the JOY of it!  I have projects I want to start, things I want to say, feelings that need to come out in a healthy way.  I really hope you’ll join me.  Please share your thoughts in the comments below! I’d love to hear what you’re working on! xoxo.

Mandi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s inspiration comes all the way from Alwar, India.  I am so honored to have Andy Lepper write for us this week.  Andy runs a non-profit called No Longer Orphans and is ‘Papa’ to 35 boys at Shiloh Children’s Home in Alwar.  I had the pleasure of meeting Andy and his wife Susan while traveling in India with friends.  We got to stay at the boys home, they fed us, took care of us and we watched 35 happy, rambunctious, well-adjusted boys play, laugh and take care of each other.  They are truly memories and people I will never forget. Today’s post is about the little things… 

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If you didn’t know, I live in India. My wife and I run a children’s home. Some might call it an orphanage. We have 35 boys. I see some pretty amazing things. Some of them make me laugh. Some of them make me cry. Some of them make me think.

Today was a thinking kind of day. I encountered a few things worth writing about.  I will share one experience with you.

I was having a nice leisurely ride on my motorcycle when I passed him. At first I didn’t catch what he was doing. He was slumped over on his hands and knees on the asphalt picking something up. That something was grains of wheat.

As I became aware of what he was doing I got a wider look. And don’t judge me, but I stopped to watch and didnt help. About 20 feet ahead was his motorcycle with a 50 pound bag of wheat on it. Something had happened and the bag had lost some of its content. But not much. Maybe a pound of grain at the most.

But here was this man on his hands and knees picking up one pound of wheat that was spread out over 20 feet. I repeat, On his hands and knees. WHY? Was he so poor that this was his family’s rations for the month and that 1 pound meant a day that his children wouldn’t eat? Or was he afraid of what his boss might say if he found out a mistake had happened? I will never know the reason he was so intent on rescuing a pound of wheat, one grain at a time.

But what strikes me the most is his intensity for such a little thing. The truth is that he probably could ration the remainder and stretch it so the loss is minimal to his family. The truth is also that his boss probably would never actually know that some was missing if that was the reason.

This smallest of things mattered to him. You could tell that each grain had value to him.

Seeing this turned my thoughts to my 35 boys, my 35 Indian men in training. You see, life is made up of thousands of small events that get overshadowed by the handful of major events. These small events make up our days, our weeks, our years. It’s these little things that make us who we are. I will have thousands of encounters with each one of my boys. So the question I pose to myself is whether I see the value in these small events as they happen. Do I cherish the tiny things that make up the whole of our lives? Do I recognize the importance of one of my little ones who slips his hand in mine when he wants comfort? Do I enjoy the times where they look at me searching for affirmation? These moments are building my young boys into men. Do I value the moments I have with each boy, even if no one will ever know? 

What are the small things worth to you? Even if no one would ever find out, do you value the insignificant things like this Indian man?

Luke 16:10   One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

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MandiCrocker note:  Please consider donating to No Longer Orphans.  Having been there, I have seen these donations in action.  Every dollar goes to these boys, I promise you that, and the need is great. Money also stretches in India so even small contributions help! Below are some pictures I took of the trip.

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Stacy showing the boys the pictures of them on her camera.

Stacy showing the boys the pictures of them on her camera.

 

One of the boys showing me his coloring.

One of the boys showing me his coloring.

 

Little shoes.

Little shoes.

 

Chickens outside the orphanage.

Chickens outside the orphanage.

 

Some of the sweet boys.

Some of the sweet boys.

 

The boys have shoes but much prefer being without them!

The boys have shoes but much prefer being without them!

 

Boys being boys!

Boys being boys!

 

One good kick!

One good kick!

 

Playing.

Playing.

 

This little cutie was constantly being taken care of, picked up and dragged around by all of the other boys. They watch out for each other.

This little cutie was constantly being taken care of, picked up and dragged around by all of the other boys. They watch out for each other.

 

More playing!

More playing!

 

This little guy was everywhere!

This little guy was everywhere!

 

And fast as lightening!

And fast as lightening!

 

Homework time

Homework time

 

Too fascinated with my cell phone to study- ha!

Too fascinated with my cell phone to study- ha!

 

Drying clothes.

Drying clothes.

 

What the boys home looks like inside. Huge big room, and old British construction.

What the boys home looks like inside. Huge big room, and old British construction.

 

Love these kids.

Love these kids.

 

More drying clothes... 35 boys currently there!

More drying clothes… 35 boys currently there!

 

The "kitchen."

The “kitchen.”

 

Bible school time

Bible school time

 

The boys were so excited to have apples, an expensive fruit in India.

The boys were so excited to have apples, an expensive fruit in India.

 

My friend, and Stacy's husband Lucas, playing with the kids.

My friend, and Stacy’s husband Lucas, playing with the kids.

 

New flip flops for the boys thanks to The Jamie Sheth Foundation.

New flip flops for the boys thanks to The Jamie Sheth Foundation.

 

The boys just got some but grew out of them so fast!

The boys just got some but grew out of them so fast!

Today’s inspiration is written by my friend and guest blogger, Jenn Heater.  “Jennifer Love Heater” and I met at a little comedy school in Los Angeles.  She is incredibly smart, has a great sarcastic sense of humor and has a huge heart for politics.  I knew vaguely of a sickness a bit after we met but I never expected my good friend to be chronically ill and/or bedridden, etc. a majority of the years I would know her. I find her strength to be dumbfounding and courageous, and motivates me personally to remember how good I have it.  Be sure to send her lots of love in the comments. Read more

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“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about… Say yes quickly, if you know, if you’ve known it from before the beginning of the universe.” -Jalai Ud-Din Rumi

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My first inspirational post comes from my dear friend, photographer & writer, Stacy Osterman.  Stace is inspirational to me for many reasons– she’s an amazing photographer, for one, but she also inspires me with her enthusiasm for travel, adventure and by marching to the beat of her own drummer.  Stacy and her husband do their lives different than most.  Rather than having children, they save up to travel the world.  So when I asked her to be my first inspirational guest blogger, I was expecting something about photography or maybe about living a lifestyle that is different than the cultural norm. When she sent me this, I was surprised but knew its timeliness could touch a lot of people this week.  It is both lovely, thoughtful and beautifully written.  I also asked Stacy to include some of her photos and she picked what she thought might bring more beauty into the day.  Keep playing today, kids.  xoxo.

Note:  This is about an artist expressing herself through writing; This is not a political piece up for debate. All comments for artists on MandiCrocker are to always remain positive and encouraging!  Be sure to leave her lots of love. xoxo 

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As my deadline loomed I did what any good writer would do, browsed Facebook. It was a minefield. Hours after the presidential election was called my friends woke up to a world they didn’t recognise. That’s a feeling I’m familiar with, being an international traveler, and although I was disappointed in the outcome, and know that people need to go through their mourning process, I’m a little jaded when it comes to politics as I was a poly sci major in college during the Bush elections, a Dean supporter and Bernie will always have my heart. I know to get up and keep working because that’s what we have to do every day, even if we suffer a loss. The world goes on and we get another chance in a couple years to make a change.

Then I came across a post from my 19 year old cousin. A sophmore in college she was raised in a suburban town and had a hard time understanding her sexuality in that environment. Now in a more diverse space at college she is thriving, settling into her new queer identity.

 

“What I want to say is that I fear for my life. HE is not exactly what scares me. He is just the fuel for the flame that frightens me. What scares me is the fact that I’m living with people who agree with most of the things he has said. You can tell me all about how “not all his supporters agree with the way he’s treated women, POC, LGBTQ+, etc.” But that is exactly my point. We still have millions of people out there in the world who DO agree with how he treats all the groups I stated. And being a queer woman myself, I am terrified to live with people that believe that my basic human rights should be stripped right out of my hands. I am terrified that our soon to be Vice President believes that you can shock gay people into turning straight. I’ve struggled for the past two years to become more confident in my queerness. I still feel slightly uncomfortable holding a girl’s hand in public because I see all the stares and I let my anxiety get the best of me. I’m afraid this election will make it even worse to be me. I’m afraid to exist as myself.”

 

I have reached the point in my life where many of my friends are having children. Grappled with the idea of telling their daughters how a man like Donald Trump could be elected president they penned open letters to their babies, apologizing for how the future may look. I don’t have to wait, I have a young person in front of me asking why. I dropped the article that I had researched for the last two weeks and wrote this letter. It’s a little different than what most people would say to someone who is afraid, but I don’t think anyone should be afraid of fear: we should use it. It’s one of our most valuable possessions.

 

Dear Jolie,

Although many of my friends are in shock, mourning the loss of their political party and literally crying while holding their newborn children, I’ve not shed a tear. Knowing many of these people have not participated in the political process other than complaining on Facebook about the options for President has made me apathetic to their sadness. No one mentioned the Senate or House races. No one talked about the initiatives and propositions. I didn’t see a single mention of any debate other than those which our media promoted as earth shattering. This country has gone through Watergate, Clinton’s impeachment, wars, terrorist attacks, the Bush/Gore election and we have not imploded. I wasn’t worried nor was I too surprised at the results.

It wasn’t until I saw your post that the sadness settled in. The panic crashed over me and I became irrationally angry. She could lose her freedom! She could be called out in the streets for simply being herself! She will have to live in fear!! These thoughts were just as horrifying as the first time I saw you get hit by the opposite team while playing ice hockey. I couldn’t believe how hard they ran into you! And you just got up and kept playing!

You just got up and kept playing.

Three months ago on a particularly lovely day I decided to walk to the grocery store up the street. On my way home a man exposed his genitals to me before dashing off in his car so quickly I couldn’t catch the licence plate. I got back to my apartment, told my husband what happened and then I locked myself in the bathroom and cried. The experience triggered me to remember when I was younger and the same thing occurred, a man exposed himself to me on the street as I walked home from school, but at that time I was told it was simply because of how I was dressed and to be more careful. I was 12 years old. No one ever called the police to report it.

It’s only been in the last couple weeks that I’ve allowed myself to walk down that street again and in the meantime I’ve noticed that all the clothes I currently wear cover myself as much as humanly possible in the heat of the summer. I haven’t taken any photos of flowers in months, one of my favorite activities since I usually have to be so technical in my image making. It took me this long to realize I’d changed my clothing, my daily routine, my ability to enjoy my surroundings, basically everything about me because of this 30 second encounter.  I felt just as helpless as I did when I was a little girl being told it was my fault.

I had to get up and keep playing.

I had to remind myself that the first thing I said when this man tried to take away my power was “I didn’t need to see that’. Those words came right out of my mouth as soon as he opened his pants. My strength caused him to run away. I didn’t initially fear him, I was angry and I expressed it out loud. That comes from experiencing this over and over, from constantly walking into situations where I was scared, nervous or anxious and making it out ok. Battle scarred, but still here.

My friend Shawna is a unicorn. She has short, delicate pink hair. She wears leotards and shirts from the kid’s section at Target. She dances like a fairy with the little girls she teaches and she inspires the adults she coaches by telling them not to let anyone “crush their shine”. Her significant other delights in walking behind her in a crowd as he gets to see the smiles and looks from those who have just experienced Shawna’s presence. She is just existing in the world but because she doesn’t blend in she is occasionally taken down by those who don’t like it when others are out of the ordinary. People have singled her out and berated her on the street, insulting her looks or her demeanor. But every day she gets out of bed, laces up her sparkle shoes and greets those who may look at her strange.
She keeps playing.

The television is going to tell you to be afraid. That when you step outside your door you will be ostracized because of your sexual orientation. That the world is a scary place so tune in at 11pm and watch it all burn.

Unfortunately they are right. Kinda. Nothing in this world is that black and white.

We will continue to make strides and then we will take two steps back in our fights for social justice and human rights. No matter where you travel in the world you will come upon those who want to harm you just for being you. Maybe it’s because you’re a woman, maybe it’s because you’re gay, maybe it’s because you cut them off in traffic: the threat is always present and it hasn’t changed in my lifetime. I don’t see it changing in yours. There will always be ignorant people who fear what is unfamiliar. There will always be people who would rather hurt another human than understand them.

This means you have to be strong. You have to hold the hand of the woman you love while walking down an unfamiliar street. You need to shave your head (or dye your hair purple) and know that people will look at you strange and that’s ok. You need to travel the world and go to places that take you away from everything you’ve known and shakes up everything you’ve ever learned. You need to learn to live with fear. Fear about who you are means you don’t get to be you, and that’s not something I’m going to let happen, but a healthy fear about the world around you is normal and will help you to…

Get up and keep playing!

Find your tribe, those who love and support you when the world seems like it never will.  Seek out  your Shawna to help you fend off those who want your shine to be crushed. Remind yourself that those who try to hurt you are hurting themselves. That we need to love them but that we don’t need to be around them if they cause us pain. Learn how to protect yourself, how to be self sufficient and how to manage your anxiety when it gets to be overwhelming.

And I promise to always help you stand when it seems like you can’t get up and keep playing.

I hope one day you don’t need to write a letter like this to your own children or to the young people in your life but just in case you do I hope this reminds you that the world is what we make of it.

Make it beautiful.

I love you,

Cousin  

 

Croatia 2010

 

Big Island Kamoamoa Fissure Eruption 2011

 

 

Shimla

 

Sunrise Over Sikeu

 

Waterfalls, Croatia 2010