Sunday, December 13, 2009

back to the drawing board...

I returned to drawing studio again today, two weeks in a row. Thanks to Aaron and Jessica who came along for the ride and ate dark chocolate with me during studio time.

I was not in the mood to draw, which made this experience perfect for me, because "the artist's way" says that your creative flow should be at anytime, not a notion to wait for her creative highness to arrive before you can start flowing (Aaron took this idea to greater lengths and gave his figure a imaginary crown, bravo!)

Sketch after sketch I found nothing prevailed to me as "beautiful". I then remembered showing my sketches from last week to my darling boyfriend, who then asked why none of my drawings had a rather important male appendage. I was more interested in his shoulders, I said... and ran out of time since those were quick sketches, and also his poses were conservative. We laughed to think that if the role was reversed, a male artist drawing a female nude, the first thing he would draw would be her breasts. Another artist today said he had a teacher who refrained them from drawing nipples, because students would draw them even if they weren't there...such is the hypnotic power of the female body.

I thus followed the inspiration I was given, in the form of masculine admiration for the female form...I over exaggerated curves. I drew the right nipple, which I could not see. It was a delight to celebrate the female figure... it made my own insecurities disappear as everything about her body I found beautiful to draw. We as women need to truly remember the power that we have, as captured so eloquently by Paulo Neruda in the last line of his poem oda a la belle desnuda (ode to a beautiful nude):

Debajo de tu piel vive la luna.
(The moon lives in the lining of your skin)

Monday, December 7, 2009

the artist within

I started reading a book called the artist way a few months back, which is about feeding your inner artist and becoming creative again. I realized that I had become so judgemental of myself that I became afraid of trying anything new in terms of creating, because I believed I was not good enough or worthy enough to create.

In celebration of my artist within, I decided to do a three hour studio figure drawing session. I just did not pay attention to the critic i got in my head, and instead made the event about artistic expression...that nothing would be wrong. Here in these two drawing that I share, I did not let the pen lift off the paper...and I used pretty colors. I actually quite like them. who cares if i drew an extra leg, or maybe his head was a big too big?

So everybody, go out and do something creative! I promise, you'll feel really good about yourself.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Your money, miles, or your life

There I was, sitting at egoistic gunpoint staring at the screen. 50,000 miles to Florida. 50,000 miles that I’ve spent the last year building, building in hopes of reaching elite status, and of exotic trips to I do not know where with what time I do not have. Along with hoarding time I was hoarding miles. Do I save them? For what greater reason do you have to hoard them Danielle? I looked down at my mass of self development journals and flipped to my list of things that bring me pleasure and meaning to my life, and number one on the list: family.

I clicked the button. I can’t believe I even thought twice about it.

Grandpa, after many years of struggling with cancer, has decided to cease all treatments, and is in hospice at home. I am convinced he is going to live till 130 because he promised me, but just in case, the entire family is flying to Florida to spend some time with Grandpa. I will see half brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces I have never met, and my father whom I’ve not seen for a year. Here, after eight years of not seeing him, I finally am making time for the number one thing on my list of importance in my life.

How is that so, that we can live our lives so incongruent to what our actual values and priorities are? How could I think twice about spending something as intangible as miles for the experience of seeing my grandfather in his time (or my time) of need?

I am sitting on a plane on the way to Hawaii, having spent the first three hours working away at reports, sales analysis and making incentive plans. When in Seattle last week I picked up a book called Happier, by Prof. Tal ben-shahar, phd. A professor of Harvard University, he created a course called positive psychology, on learning the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfillment. It soon became the most popular class at Harvard. Im on page 53 so far.

I just read about reorganizing our lives to make time for the things that matter most, that gives us a sense of enjoyment, meaning. This means that we have to be diligent in making rituals of these events, or when the calling comes, to act on that impulse and not to put it off in fear of it not being “perfect.”

Which is why I just whipped out my notebook and wrote this. I’m not going to edit it…change it, I’m going to leave it be. There. I made time for my family, used miles to see them, and made time for a hobby that brings me great joy, writing.

Go ahead. What is on your list of things that bring you pleasure? Go do one of them. Give this day…TODAY… Tuesday, July 21st a little bit more meaning, make yourself a little bit happier.

Friday, May 8, 2009

top ten things i learn in college

"Beauty fades, dumb is forever" reads the title. Amusing what you find on the clearance shelf at half price books. Author? Judge Judy. Explains it all. Yeah, start rolling your eyes, but she's right, isn't she? I gave up my last few prime modeling years to be in class with an army of sorostitutes, pimpled computer geeks, and dirty beer-stained frat boys. I still remember the long, tedious hours of doing math homework on the floor of my college boyfriend's room, and thinking how cool his special edition semi-frosted silver T1-86 was. I wanted one.

Wait, back up...what? I left fashion shoots in bank vaults, photo op in the glossy "what's going on" section of Harper's Bazaar, and free clothes to wanting a calculator? (but it was special edition...) BUT IT'S A CALCULATOR. Special edition Fendi spybag, okay. Special edition TI-86, where you still can't figure out the graphing function, yet alone doing discounts, NO. What the hell was I thinking?

So this is what this blog post is about: what did I gain from going to school instead of continuing down the modeling road? How will I apply the skills I learned in business school to position myself for what I want in my future?

Let's start with economics, and a bit of accounting. What would the opportunity cost of NOT going to college be? We could do complicated future cash flows on aggregate salaries of college grads in my field to come up with a number, and compare that to how much I would have made modeling in the same time frame. Yet, as I learned in business school, numbers can be distorted and bent, there is a very grey area in numbers (it's called accounting). We learned that a great asset a company possesses is its brand value, yet it cannot be accounted for on the balance sheet. This is the same way that my GPA, CV and and other quantitative metrics can't represent the synergy of ME, Inc.

Oh finance. I had a wonderful finance tutor who was so passionate about the subject. He tried so hard to enlighten me on the graces of CAPM, mortgage rates that had balloons and arms, two, four, eight of them, like Shiva...and all sorts of other weird things, hoping that I would see the light. We locked ourselves in the dungeons of underground Balmer (business school building) like passionate secret lovers might, but the only love affair I had was trashing aside my finance book to proclaim my undying love for his marketing book. So... let's look at me as a portfolio, a collection of investments. Beauty, I found out, is a exponentially depreciating asset. Not a great investment, if it is your only one. In finance we learn that increasing your return on an investment is safest when you do three things: diversify, diversify, diversify! The rationale behind this is that a portfolio of different kinds of investments will, on average, yield higher returns and pose a lower risk than any individual investment found within the portfolio. So a woman who is diversified is what men call "the whole package." So I decided to diversify into my brain.

So four years and $40,000 of mostly YOUR tax dollars later, what did I learn?
Here is my top ten list of what I learned in college:

10. We won the citizenship lottery

Fellow students in one class presented on Nike one day, and handed each of us an envelope. In mine was 32 cents, and a piece of paper that read:
"My name is Santi. I live in Indonesia. I work at the nike factory and make 32 cents a day. " I sat there with the 32 cents in my hand and completely broke down, right there in class. I easily could have been Santi had my father not been American. Here I was sitting at a university, tuition and expenses paid for by taxpayers and sometimes feeling like life was unkind. I am blessed. I am damn lucky. So my goal now? do something for women like Santi.

9. Always put things into perspective

The previous pearl of wisdom directly relates to this one. Everything is relative to something else. There is no single way of looking at things, and if you look at things in perspective, you might not worry as much. For example, the stress of operations management and so boring. I never learned anything in class. So I stopped going to class, read the book and crammed like a crayon for the final. Perspective? 4 credits out of 200+. don't sweat the small stuff.

8. Beauty can only take you so far

Ever taken a final from hell? The hardest son of a bitch final that ( i quote from a classmate), "you check to see if your balls are still attached as you leave" kind of final? Dean Sefcik would have that honor.Walking into his accounting final was what i think walking into the bowels of hell would be like. It was the first time I walked in somewhere and thought, wow. For the first time in a long time, the way i look, the way i present myself will take me nowhere. The only thing i have to get me through this is the squishy material between my ears. I know some of you are rolling your eyes, but this was a revelation to me. I had finally learned again, to use my brain.
P.s. hard finals usually mean damn good teachers. Dean Sefcik is among the elite, and one of the best teachers I've ever had. Find those hard professors. They will push you and mold you into grand things you never could even imagine you could be. Don't ever let schooling get in the way of you education, go for the hard class with a lower grade. Once you're out of school, you wont remember what grades you got, let alone care. Promise.

7. Don't forget to talk to yourself once in a while

Ever been in one of those classes where you don't know the name of the person sitting next to you, and it's already a week from the final? The failure to communicate is even greater than ever now that we don't even communicate with the most important person: ourselves. In the acting series at the drama school (if you are still in school, take it) We would do exercises where we would ask, "hey Danielle, this is yourself speaking. How are you doing today? How are you feeling?". As we all embark into work life, being lured by money and expense accounts, frequent flier programs and hotel points, don't forget to truly sit down and ask yourself what you're feeling, and what your heart really wants.

6.Seek only the best

Don't ever start at mediocre, or half's easier staying at the top than it is getting there, so never settle. Go for gold. Never settle.

5. You will use calculus again at some point in your life

Maybe not actually perform calc, but the general understanding of how it works and how to apply it to certain situations is helpful, especially stats. Even in economics. If all else fails, you can use it at the bar in a knowledge contest against bankers who think you're stupid. Ask them for the derivative of 2x^3. I did this in London. Hysterical.

4. Become the man of your dreams

There is something called the cinderella syndrome, the feeling that a woman is so stuck (in her life, situation, position) that women yearn to be rescued (emotionally, financially) by a man. Men, friends, family, even yourself will at one point or another disapoint you, but I learned that there is a lot of goodness in people, and most importantly in myself. In the end, only I can rely on myself to be happy, to provide shelter, to feed myself, to make a difference in my life. Rescue yourself, doesn't mean that your hero won't come along. He will. But until then and even AFTER then, live your life.

3. Read.

Tim Ferris, of 4 hour work week fame spoke about a student who wrote for advice from Warren Buffet. He wrote back: "read, read, read". Reading extends your ability to think dynamically and expands your depth. I am a different woman because of books like The power of Now, The Prophet, Gourmet Nutrition. Go to a used bookstore. Breathe in the wisdom.

2. Travel.

I thought I was well traveled before I went to college. I was well jetsetted...but not traveled. I went to Cyprus for a program with the American University of Beirut and American University of Cairo, and two weeks of intense debate and study on the tension of US and Arab identity later, I had chemically reacted to be someone completely different. I am now part Lebanese and part Eygptian. GO travel, but travel to learn...plan to learn something!

1. Be passionate about what you do in life

You live once. I know there is an economic crisis going on..but this is good, turmoil is good because it will and has shaken us up to think what is really important! Shake yourselves of the golden handcuffs and when you wean yourself off the desperate thoughts of losing that much money, think... well, now what? What do i really really want to do in life? This is my chance. Go. Play. Fall in love, make that dream bakery, go become a salsa nut in Argentina. GO GO GO!!! Your life awaits you.

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
- President Abraham Lincoln

Friday, May 1, 2009

all you need is love

There are some stories that rip down through you to the core of your soul. This is one I heard last night at a seminar I went to, and I had to share with all of you.

The man who told it is Mat Boggs, who for six years went around the country interviewing couples who have been (happily) married for 40+ years. Inspired by the love of his grandparents for each other... he went to seek what makes love continually grow.

One woman's husband was terminally ill. They had been married for 55 years or so. During their marriage they used to write little notes to each other and hide them around the house. He would write one "i miss you" and put it in a cupboard. Months later she would find it, and write one back: "thinking about you" and put them in his sweater drawer, in the mid of summer. Fall would come before he found it.

They always went to bed at the same time. As he got sicker, he would start to go to bed earlier and earlier, to the point he was crawling into bed at 4:30. He would always ask her to come to bed with him. After a while she got a bit frutrated because she would be half way through her day. So she would lay with him and hold him till he fell asleep, then get up and finish her day.

He got sicker and sicker, till one day she was laying there holding him, and slowly felt his breathing go slower and slower, until it stopped. The love of her life died there in her arms, slowly, as each breath took him from this realm into the next. She laid there sobbing and holding him, holding him so that she would never forget what it felt like...

She said that the those 60 yeas went by so fast. All she wished for was one last chance to feel that again, to feel him there. The average life span of a human is 77 years. That's it. 77 thanksgivings, 77 birthdays, 77 hari rayas, eids, life is finite.

She went through her drawers to put on something, and she felt a piece of paper.
He had, in his terminal illness and failing health, got up and in shaky writing, wrote on a note:

love you

that is the note that you see above.

Their love spreads across from this world to the next.

Love is transcendent across all relationships... breathe that into your lives.
here is a list of the love I see, and what sticks by me:

Grandpa & Grandma: I often think of the many times I watched you both dance in your kitchen. Your love is an inspiration to me.

Mama and Papa Townsend: Mama T lost her diamond bracelet, and Papa T made an appt to replace that one

Mom and Dad Demarest: Jan dropping his clothes out the window to hint that he needs to put it into the hamper LOL

Mak and Ayah: love note Ayah wrote on a record, "I'm in love i'm in love" sent it from london

Mr. and Mrs. Hamid: arranged marriage, and grew to fall in love with each other

Jay and Fernanda: Jay running home to be there to share Fernanda's first snowfall(she's brazilian)

Jovi and Jorg: met and flew back and forth between germany and london. getting married in july!

Estelle (my sister) and Teo: fixed her car when the starter was broken, used to push it to start it for her. Both very young but mature and loving in their relationship

Riani (twin) and Julien: He let her get pet turtles to put in their garden in a have one of them die a horrible death of getting stuck in an elevator door. My sister is still traumatized.

Mr. and Mrs. Reyes: you did everything together, watching you when i grew up was a very positive message.

Nenek (my indo grandma): hasn't remarried to keep the honor of her husband's name for her children. Still cuts chicken on the floor with a machete. My Grandfather died many years ago.

Ujing Butet and Uncle DB: uncle DB, when we were cooking and messed up the pressure cooker, your main concern was that Ujing didn't burn herself, and not that we were destroying the kitchen with hot oil and meat flying everywhere.

Uncle Steve and Tante Ruby: you both love so much, not just to each other, to long lost daughters of old friends. Watching you juggle an odd work schedule, children, and have you tante ruby tell me stories till late morning about what you and my parents did when i was too young to know (complete with sound effects and dance moves) will stay with me.

Cookie and Micah: he makes recipe manuals for her since she loves to bake bread.

Trish and Tony: your patience with each other is amazing.

Sarah and Chris Couhault: You probably barely remember me, but i remember you Chris piggy backing sarah back in highschool in Jakarta. I remember thinking, that is what love should be.

Mama Panda and Poppa Panda: mama P, you sat at the window with me while watching your husband sift through the dirt, telling me about how you read sifting soil will make growing near impossible... you just let him be.

Mama and Papa Roo: You are so supportive of each other, love so much.

MOM and DAD: they aren't together anymore, but my childhood was filled with so much love. When we moved to Indonesia, my father kept going to go buy plants because my mom liked to garden. Our back patio looked like a jungle. My mom used to spend so much time and care to MAKE cereal that my dad liked....from scratch, the same way his mom made it for him.

Love is beyond relationships. Give it to everyone. Spread it.