Tag Archives: mother
Today is Mother’s Day and it’s my last weekend in China. I’ve been in China for the past three weeks, teaching Chinese journalists how to think and shoot in motion. It’s been a tough time and these past three weeks seem more like three years, instead of 3 weeks. I’m missing my home, my husband, my daughter and my personal freedom. Today, I took a well-needed day for myself – to reflect and re-energize for my final week here.
Yesterday, there was a knock on my hotel room door. I opened it to a wet (it was raining), but smiling woman, holding a big bouquet of flowers. Tom and Erin (my husband and daughter) found a way to get flowers delivered to me, clear across the world. Those flowers will give me strength to get through each day this last week here in China – even as they begin to wilt. Like a faded photo of loved ones, carried in my wallet, they will remind me of my support system in my life – my family.
My mom is no longer alive, but her spirit is always with me, especially during the hardest of times. I wish I had told her when she was still alive, how much she buoyed my spirits and gave me strength on my lowest days – I wish I had told her more often how much I loved her. She knew that, even when we disagreed – we connected in unspoken ways.
My daughter, Erin lives in Chicago now, ironically the city I was born in. I had planned to take a trip out to Chicago to see her and her apartment that she moved into almost a year ago. But that trip was canceled, along with my appearance at a screening of Opening Our Eyes at Northwestern, Erin’s alma mater, due to this trip to China.
I knew that this teaching job in China was going to be difficult, I just didn’t realize how difficult it would be. To be honest, I needed the money, making a film has not only been a huge time suck, but one on my finances as well. I didn’t set out to get rich off this movie – anyone can tell you that you are a fool to think you can make money by making a documentary. I set out to make this film because I felt there were some things missing in my own life, but I also felt that “we” (human beings), especially the collective “we” in America, had gotten off course in the last 20-30 years. We had become a “what’s in it for me society” and at the same time become unhealthy and unhappy. Our “successes” and “things” weren’t making us happy. We had become frustrated and yet didn’t even know why – ask any “occupiers”.
In the process of making this film, I not only found my purpose in my life, but also formed an incredible bond with my daughter on our journey and made me grateful for all the things I have in my life that I had taken for granted. Essentially, making this movie saved my life. At the same time, I feel that I have alienated and annoyed friends by talking about it too much and promoting the festivals and awards too much. I sense that I have oversaturated the market and yet I feel the need to stay the course of our ultimate goal of this film and that is to make a difference with this film by motivating and inspiring others as to what they can do to create a shift in our society to become less selfish and self-absorbed. It’s ironic that in doing so, I’ve lost friends because I’ve become too self-absorbed in the process. A filmmaker I met recently told me “you never finish a film – but there comes a time when you are ready to let go”. I’m slowly getting to the point that I can let go – and give up this fight.
Perhaps it took coming to China for me to get to this point. I thought I would have the support of my team while I was here, but in fact for the most part, I felt I was on my one. I will admit that I’m not the easiest person to be with. I have a strong personality and generally say what’s on my mind. On the other hand, I have an extreme sense of loyalty and my true friends know that while I may say things to their face that may be jarring at times, I’ll never do things behind their backs that can undermine them. I never abandon my friends, even when they have hurt me. In fact I often will do things I don’t like because I will put myself second if it means not hurting someone else’s feelings. I have found that by living my life this way, I find out who my true friends are – I have been surprised many times by people who I thought were friends and I found out otherwise. Even at those times, I somehow find myself giving them the benefit of the doubt and believe that after time has passed and wounds have healed from disagreements, our friendships will mend.
There is a lyric, in fact the title of a song “love the one you’re with”. Last week, while struggling to get through the challenges here and missing my family, I got some well-needed support from my students. These nine young Chinese students not only formed a bond with each other to overcome their own challenges of learning video but they became my family. I commented that Sunday was Mother’s Day and that I was missing my family. On the last day, I walked into the classroom and saw that they had drawn a caricature of me on the whiteboard and underneath the drawing they had written “mama”. It took everything I had not to cry. Later when I handed them their certificates of achievement I gave each and every one of them a hug. We had formed our own family that week and we pulled each other through. The word “mom”, or “mother”, or “mama” took on a greater meaning and we all felt it.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the “moms” and our collective mom – “Mother Earth”.
It was one of those really busy days. We were having an Oscar party that night and then flying out to California the next morning. I was walking out of the supermarket with a full cart of groceries and a bag toppled off the top, spewing its contents all over the parking lot. I picked up the mess, got in the car and was heading home when the phone rang. It was my sister telling me that they were taking my mother to the hospital. She didn’t sound good at all and she hung up. I got home, called out to Tom and Erin to help me put the perishables away, and alerted them to what had happened. Fifteen minutes later, we were all in the car, heading to the hospital when my sister called again. She told me that mom had died on the way to the hospital. And I instantly thought “my unasked questions will never be answered” – questions that have been in my mind since I was a young child – questions about my mother’s story – but I was always too afraid to ask.
The next few weeks were a blur – telling people about my mother’s death, dealing with legalities, travel logistics and funeral arrangements. After the distractions gave way to the final realization that my mother had died – I was going through some things at her apartment. I discovered an old purse containing a bundle of letters, going back to the early 1970’s and I spent the rest of the day, reading them. I was beginning to find some of the answers to the questions that I was always too fearful to ask. I also discovered a part of my family that I never knew I had.
I have gotten to know and love this family over these past eight years. For me it has been a time for discovery and has provided me with somewhat of an explanation of who I am and what drives me to do what I do. For my “new found family” – it has reconnected them to my mother and her legacy. The missing pieces were found and the circles completed on both ends.
I suppose you could say that some inexplicable force has driven me since my mother’s passing. Six years after she died, I journeyed around the world with my daughter, creating a movie. We formed a bond that will last a lifetime, a bond that I had always wished I had with my mother. But I know that in many ways my mother has been a big part of my journey.
As I complete the circle of the making of this film, I’m starting to see my mother’s story play out cinematically in my head – vivid in every detail. It’s an amazing story that is crying out to be told and it’s beginning to write itself.
Oh my, that’s exactly how the idea for Opening Our Eyes got started.
This day, that is supposedly about “love” has actually lost the meaning of that word in all the hype and commerce that has attached itself to it. In fact, I’d have to say that this particular day does more in the way of making people feel unloved than loved.
I suppose my feelings about Valentines Day started very early on when I was still in grade school. Every year, no matter which school I was attending, ( I moved a lot when I was younger) the teacher would set aside some time for the students to make and trade valentines. First we needed to make a box where our classmates could deposit their tokens of affection. Being the creative type, I would take an ordinary shoebox and turn it into a work of art. My classmates and I would either buy or make our valentines and then place them into each other’s elaborate or not so elaborate containers.
The day would finally arrive and we would all open up our boxes and dump our valentines out onto our desks. Sadly, most years my box contained only a handful of cards, even though I always had at least 50 kids in my classroom! That’s the way it was back then. But I was the perpetual “new kid” because my family moved a lot. And so, that took it’s toll on Valentines Day because I usually wasn’t on my classmates’ radar.
I look at the day now as an adult and I see that it still causes a lot of misplaced expectations on our loved ones, and worse yet, makes some of us feel like a total unloved misfit, if we don’t have a significant other or aren’t on the receiving end of someone’s affections. All this angst created by a day that has turned love into commerce.
I decided to write about this today because I’m reflecting on pivotal moments in my life when I really felt true love – unconditional love. One day in particular was the day after my daughter was born. I held her in my arms and I felt a love that I had never known before. I know that any parent reading this understands what I mean. Love should always be unconditional. We only truly “love” someone, when we love in that way – unconditionally. That only happens when we are able to think beyond ourselves. When we love someone, regardless of what they’ve said or done in anger or sadness, we begin to know what love really is. But we have to see past ourselves to get to that place.
Ronni Kahn, one of the subjects in our film said: “Do something for the sake of doing – not for the money – not for the recognition – but just for the sake of doing”. I think she was defining what true love really is. If we can abandon our expectations of what we want or expect in return from our loved ones – then that’s when we really care about that person and really love them. It’s hard to do, because you have to let go of your ego and how you feel. But when you truly love someone, you forgive their frailties and missteps and love them for who they are.
Forget the flowers, candy and cards today. Reach out to someone who needs some love or maybe just needs a bit of attention. Think beyond yourself. When you do that, you will understand the real meaning of the word “love”.
The last Christmas I spent with my mother was the Christmas of 2003. I didn’t know that would be our last Christmas together. She died very suddenly, less than two months later. I often wonder if I had known that Christmas was to be the last one that I’d spend with my mother, if I would have asked her the questions that I always wanted to ask. One thing I do remember about that Christmas was a moment during the evening when I caught a look in my mother’s face that I had seen before – a distant look where I felt as if she was somewhere else.
After my mother’s death, I learned a great deal about my mother – things I would have loved to have talked to her about. I was a perceptive and curious child, and there were always questions that I wanted to ask her, but I never did. I don’t know why. I could say that there was “never the right time” but I’ve grown to hate that expression or should I say excuse. I guess I was just too afraid.
I would not have been able to take the journey around the world with my daughter Erin and make this film if it hadn’t been for my mother. That’s why the name of the production company is Nola Productions, Nola was my mother’s name. When she died, she left me a bit of money and that helped finance Opening Our Eyes. That and airline miles, hotel points, crowd-funding and lots of help from my friends. But my mother gave me something even more important than money, that made this film happen. She gave me, belief in myself and compassion for others. If it hadn’t have been for my mom, I wouldn’t have had the desire to make a film that delivers the message, that we can all make a difference in how we choose to live our lives. And she always told me to believe in myself and my dreams and that anything was possible.
If you were to ask me (and many have) what was the best part of the trip – I’d would tell you that ii was spending time with my daughter. We not only explored the world together – we got to know each other as people – beyond the mother/daughter relationship. We’ll both remember the amazing places we went to and the extraordinary people that we met, but I think the memories that will linger the longest will be the conversations that we had along the way. We both asked the questions that we had been wanting to ask and shared the stories that we needed to share. Ultimately we “took the time” to get to know one another.
When I tell women about this trip and what I did with my daughter – they always say one of two things – or both – “Oh I would love to do that with my daughter” or “ I wish I had gotten to know my mother better”. I’m grateful that I had this time with my daughter and I know my mom was with us all the way. We couldn’t have done it without her.
Have a Merry Christmas everyone.
Today is Mother’s Day, a day to acknowledge and be grateful for all of the wonderful things that mothers do – making you grilled cheese on a rainy day, helping you finish that diorama that you waited until the last minute to do, buying you your first prom dress, encouraging you to follow your dreams and supporting you every step of the way. While I’m certainly grateful for all of those things, I’m even more grateful for what my mother did for me last year – provide me with the opportunity to travel around the world and meet incredible individuals along the way.
There aren’t too many mothers who could accomplish such a feat. Sure, they would love to do that with their daughters, but very few take the plunge and I bet even fewer could handle the conditions. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing all the way. Staying in hostels, sleeping on the floor of a bamboo hut, getting bitten up the wazoo by mosquitoes, going without running water and air conditioning for days on end. And the hardest part – traveling with your daughter for 99 days straight. Nobody loves his or her kid that much to want to spend that much time with them, right? All in all, you certainly have to have an adventurous spirit to do such a thing, and no one has more of one than my mom.
I was continually amazed at her tenacity and determination throughout the trip. It didn’t matter how hot it was in Nepal, how badly her knees were hurting, how congested the streets of India were – she always kept going, no matter the obstacle. But then again, she has been like that all of my life; never making excuses and never giving up.
I think the best part of the trip for me was the fact that I got to do it with my mom and see her in action; not just as a mother, but also as a traveler in her element. I learned so much about her as a person, someone who has dreams and fears, just like me. And consequently, I have learned more about who I am as a person and why I am that way. Or in some instances, why I’m not a certain way. It’s fascinating to me how two closely related people can have such opposite reactions to the same situation. How can one person just jump on a subway train in Moscow while the other is compelled to stop and take the time to decipher the Cyrillic signs first? It’s a mystery.
I guess what I really want to say is that my mom is the coolest, most supportive and most inspiring mom I know. I am so lucky to have her in my life and that is what I am grateful for the most. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.
It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is next week and that I’ve been home for almost 3 months. Every year seems to go by faster than the last. Every Thanksgiving, I try to remind myself the true meaning of this holiday, beyond the copious amounts of food and the family gatherings. I remind myself to be thankful for what I have.
I’m most thankful for my family and those we are able to gather together. There are so many families, separated by distance or emotions who can’t be with one another this Thanksgiving. Erin is coming home for the weekend and we are really looking forward to being with each other again. My parents are no longer here in body but I’m thankful for what they made possible for me in my life and how they made me who I am. And I’m thankful for my extended family who I don’t get to see as often as I like but I’m grateful for the time that we do have with one another.
Of course this year, I’m grateful for the journey that I was able to experience with my daughter and for all the selfless people that we met along the way. My spirit was renewed by each and every one of these wonderful people who we got to know through the making of our film. They gave me back my faith in human nature and my belief that the impossible was possible. This experience brought balance to my life and a new perspective in how I see the world.
I am thankful that I have a wonderful home; in a beautiful part of the country and that my husband and I have been able to sustain that in such a tough economy. My husband made it possible for me to take some time off as he held down the fort. He did that because he could and he knew that I needed that at this point in my life.
I’m grateful for my friends and my colleagues that I have gotten to know this past year. I’ve been richly rewarded by the collaborations with my professional peers. I learned that by giving, I received more in return. Giving and sharing filled a hole in my life that I didn’t know had been missing. So to all my friends, whether personal, professional or both – thank you for being in my life.
I am forever grateful to be born in this country, where anything is possible. I will never take that for granted, nor the privilege and responsibility that comes with that. One thing that I noticed when I returned after being out of the U.S. for almost 4 months, was that there is so much anger here – anger born out of frustration. It saddens me deeply. For me, when I get frustrated and angry, I try to focus on what I can do to change what bothers me. I try to focus on the positive and do what I can to make a difference. I can do that with my camera, because that is a powerful tool in creating awareness and that is the beginning of positive change.
Lastly, thank all of you who have made donations through Kickstarter. If we meet our goal, and we’re halfway there, then the money will be used to hire a professional editor. I know that will give the film the extra polish it needs to get wider distribution. And wider distribution means that more folks will see it and be inspired and motivated to be a change maker. Imagine if that happened in a big way. If you haven’t seen our Kickstarter page, please take a look, and pass it on to other change makers.
Have a peaceful Thanksgiving everyone and remember what the day means.
The last two months, I’ve either been locked in seclusion in front of my computer, sifting through 150 hours of footage from our 99-day journey, or on airplanes, traveling as part of my “normal” working life. In either case, my mind is on this project, and more importantly on the people this project is about – the change makers of the world. I try to hold onto those thoughts, so that I can stay focused on our film and our motivation behind it.
Our goal from the start has been to shine a spotlight on the “individuals” who are making a positive change in the world, with the hope that our film will inspire and motivate others to be change makers. I’ve learned one important lesson is working on this project and that is we all, in our own way, even through the smallest acts, can make our world a better place. I learned that even though I’m not a doctor who has the power to heal the sick, I do have the power through my skills to create a film that can motivate people in a positive way, globally. I can use the tools of my craft – my cameras – to create awareness and that in itself is a powerful thing.
We still have one more story to tell and that is the story of an individual who is making a difference on the continent of North America. We saved our home base story as our last story to tell. So, we are now looking for our North American subject and we are reaching out to all of you for suggestions of people you know who personify the idea behind this film – the power of the individual in making a difference. It could be a child who is doing something in their own community and perhaps that would state the message the best – the simple, yet profound effect that even small acts can have. But we are open to any and all suggestions you may have.
We’d love to hear from you if you have a suggestion or if you could pass this request along to anyone you know who may lead us to our final subject of our film. You can either reply in the comments section of this blog or write us privately at:
I’d also like to say thank you again to all of you who have generously donated to our project through Kickstarter. At this point in time we have reached 42% of our goal, which is great but we still have a long way to go, and with Kickstarter – it’s all or nothing – if a project doesn’t get funded 100% then none of the pledges are collected and we receive nothing. That doesn’t mean we won’t finish our film – but it does mean that it will take a little longer, and that I’ll edit it myself without the expertise that a professional editor could bring to the film. If you haven’t made a pledge, please consider doing so here:
Even a $25 pledge has its reward of a DVD of the finished film if we meet our goal.
And don’t forget to send us your suggestions of who you know on our great continent of North America, that is making a difference in the world.
I’ve got great news, Maggie Doyne the inspiration for our project and one of the subjects of our documentary is featured on the cover of the NY Times Magazine tomorrow morning. (10/24/10).
Make sure to get a copy and read about Maggie’s incredible story.
Another bit of exciting news is that we just launched our project on Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. Basically it’s is an example of crowdfunding where one can host their creative project on the Kickstarter’s website and offer people levels at which to donate. People can pledge amounts from $1 to …….. the sky’s the limit and most creators offer various rewards at the different levels.
We put our project on Kickstarter to raise finishing funds for our film. So as I continue to cull through over 150 hours of footage shot during our 99-day journey, people can contribute to our project so that we can get the funds to hire a professional editor who will be able to take the film to a higher level. This will broaden it’s chances for distribution. We have a window of 74 days to reach our goal of $7500. Any funds that go over the $7500 will be split 50/50 with 50% going to promotion of the film and 50% donated to all our subject’s causes and foundations. If we don’t meet our goal of $7500 in the next 74 days – all bets are off and we receive nothing. That doesn’t mean that the film is dead. It just means that I will need to go it alone with the editing and it will take a little longer.
It will be exciting over the next couple of months to see what develops. But no matter what happens, our ultimate goal for our film is for as many people to see it as possible. The more eyes that we open – the more we will motivate and inspire others to be change-makers and make our world a better place.
Please share our project with people that you know or on Facebook or Twitter or any other places you communicate. We can all make this world a better place.
I’m beginning to realize the impact that our project is making, both in my life and in others and it’s quite astonishing. I suppose I should have known that this would happen, but I was only listening to my inner voice that was prompting me to get out and do what I do – create awareness with my camera.
I had a conversation recently with a medical doctor who had seen the trailer of our film. He told me that he thought I was an amazing person. I awkwardly received his compliment and replied that I wasn’t amazing at all – that it was people like him and the subjects of our film who were amazing – people who were saving lives. Then he told me that yes, he saves lives on a daily basis in his community and sometimes beyond, but that I was influencing people globally through the power of film. He reminded me that I should never underestimate the impact that I can have using my talents to create positive change.
I have just returned from a conference in Amsterdam, The European Summit for Global Transformation, where I had been invited to show my ten-minute trailer to open up the event. It was an impulse decision to attend – less than a week’s notice – but again I was listening to my inner voice and said “yes”. I can honestly say that this was one of those weekends that I know will have a profound impact on my life. It was a weekend of listening to other change makers’ stories and networking with others to make the impossible – possible. I had three wonderful days of being surrounded by believers – all just ordinary people – but people who are making the impossible happen.
Perhaps one of the most rewarding things that I got from attending this conference was the feedback I received from a culturally diverse group of people who saw our film’s tease. It was invaluable, uplifting and energizing. One thing was reiterated over and over by everyone I talked to and that was they loved the fact that my daughter and I shared our thoughts about making the film – in the film. It personalized it for them and in turn made the film more powerful. I’m not quite sure if I will edit the film to include us or will make that dialog a separate “behind the scenes” chapter, but I’m thankful that we took the time to capture our thoughts in those interviews on the last day of our 99-day journey and I thank my friend Ethan G. Salwen for his insightful questions.
I would love to connect with more change makers and in particular I am looking for young people – teens, 20 something year olds – who are doing things that are making a difference in the world. I met a young man at the conference who has created a network of young people who are change makers and he has asked me for people I may know. I know that there are people who are reading this that may very well be a change maker or know someone who is and I would love to connect you – so please let me know who you are or who you may know.
One thing I have learned by doing this project is that when you give – what you receive is always far greater.
It’s subtle but it’s there and it wasn’t really expected, but something is different about me and people are noticing. Not quite sure what it is, but I’m in a different place since returning from my 99-day journey around the world with my daughter.
My outlook and attitude has shifted. I’m content, I’m relaxed and I’m confident that what we did over this past summer in creating our documentary about the change makers of the world was the right thing to do. It must have been because the universe is opening up to me.
In the six weeks that I’ve been home, my time has been spent editing hours of footage that were shot on our project, working on a video that I had bartered with the Mercure Sydney Hotel in exchange for accommodations and I’ve been traveling quite a bit, speaking at conferences and giving seminars for my trade association, ASMP.
The great part is that my speaking gigs were the motivation for me to quickly put together a sample of our film, which I show and in turn have the advantage of getting feedback, while the film is still in postproduction. That’s when I get affirmation that I am on the right track in making this film. I hear people telling me, even after only seeing the 10-minute tease; they are inspired and motivated to create positive change.
I also hear people tell me that they feel my sincerity and thank me, and that is perhaps one of the highest compliments I can receive. That is what I felt from each and every one of our subjects – sincerity in their purpose. They knew that this was what they weren’t meant to be doing in their lives. They are confident and that is bringing them joy and peace in their heart. They are following the path that is intended for them and not distracted by the road that others may follow as the norm.
It’s a funny thing but in doing something that comes naturally to me, I have attracted like-minded people that want to be a part of it. I’ve received quite a few emails from editors, writers, social media experts and others who want to be part of what my daughter and I created as it goes into the next phase of the production. Collaborating with others will only make the message of my film stronger and that means more eyes will see it.
I’ve discovered that in following my instincts, good things happen. I’m in Amsterdam right now, a trip prompted by an invitation to show my “tease” tonight at The European Summit for Global Transformation. I’ll also be reconnecting with two of my subjects, Maggie Doyne and Letha Sandison as well as other change makers at this conference. Last night’s pre event gathering of inspirational change makers from around the world has already stimulated my mind with endless possibilities. I can only imagine what the rest of the weekend has in store.