Sunday, January 24, 2010

My New Journey By: Brooke

Last Thursday, after a week of quietly weeping, simply absorbing any and all sadness like a soggy sponge with no idea what to do with it all, I was hit hard by Hurricane Erin, and thankfully so. Her drive to help the people of Haiti, her people, is nothing if not infectious, and her seemingly limitless goals defy what we know as logic. Her time in Haiti has opened a door to a higher wave of consciousness that skirts the linear and manifests the impossible. To see her turn her sadness into pure creation is humbling to say the least. How could I resist the call to join this beautiful cause?

I have much to catch up on with the Veve Haiti team-- Erin, Mauri, Andrea and Shea-- and I am ready to dive into this spiritual journey. Thank you for getting me here, and bless you all for holding the flame…

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Art and Soul By Shea Lehnen

Some people come into your life and at the time you don't even realize the impact they will have, or even that there will be an impact. Then you fall gracefully in love with this new acquaintance over the course of the next year, although you live thousands of miles apart and seemingly, at times, in a different world. Erin Behr was sent to me as a gift. I met her on a business trip for the company we work for, and something about her energy attracted me to her and pulled my attention in. Her laugh, her humor and her radiance made me want to be around her, to laugh with her and to radiate in her light.
For over a year I had been trying to come to terms with the death of my daughter, something I don't speak to many people about, emotionally anyhow. I told Erin all about my ordeal the THIRD day I met her. I felt okay and lighter after spilling my dark spot. She never gave me any advice, she never tried to make me feel better, she just let me be me. It was exactly what I needed at that point in my life, just to be okay with feeling what I was feeling. I began this search into myself, into a better self because of Erin. Her spirit and her life-giving positive energy had a profound affect on my life.
When I first heard the news of Haiti, from Erin, I was devastated for her. It's one of those moments where you know terrible devastation is on the horizon, yet you can not let your mind crack open to what heartbreak will lay before you. My heart was breaking mostly for Erin, as I know she loves her people and had a very strong connection with them. After initially speaking with Erin about going over there I was scared for her. Scared that being smacked in the face with death and tragic circumstances would be so very hard. I guess I was projecting my own fear of seeing the dark spots and hurt in this world. I have realized that Erin is above letting the dark stop her from her destiny. She has found her self, and is rapidly building her legacy. Through her art Erin has expressed her love and her soul shines through.
In my own search for life I yearn to help, especially children. I am looking for my Lileigh. I know that I will see her again, but in this world I am learning to take all the hurt in my heart and direct it towards children who need me. I complain about my job, when I stop and really think about it all, I don't have to do what I am doing, I am choosing this life because it enables me to help. It enables me to have my days completely full, without much time to hurt, and gives me the monetary means to help out other children who I can not have as my own. After meeting Erin I went back to school and am pursuing my psychology degree, simply because I want to help people. I really wish to enable people who have endured a great deal of pain to move on and move up. To enjoy the beauty of the sunshine on their face, or the wind as is rushes past the window. To be able to feel something other than the dark.
Selfishly I am riding on Erin's high right now. Her art and her soul have opened doors for her that will grow wider with every step she takes. Erin is taking her dark spot and creating light and love for the people who stole her heart. I could not be prouder or happier for this transformation in her life. While thinking last night about what this all means I came to the conclusion that Erin just opened up to her meaning in life. Some people search an entire lifetime to find themselves, and their purpose on this earth....the enlightened ones find it. I love you Erin and will do anything in my power to help you attract the greatness that will find you.

Haiti Malade?

I would like to share a piece of writing that my husband wrote for the Turnagain Times about Haiti.

I was in Jamaica in 1996 when this weird infatuation with Haiti first sparked. I was walking with a local on a beach and I asked him, “Hey, what are the chances of getting a boat ride to Haiti?” He looked at me like I was insane and then went on about “....uh, na mon, that pleece is horrible mon... poor and dangerous mon...” He made Haiti sound like the absolute end of the world, and It was at that moment that I started keeping tabs on Haiti. Now, 14 years later, the only way to describe my feeling about Haiti is that it’s impossible to describe my feelings about Haiti.

It was in February in 2004 when me and Erin first landed in Port Au Prince. Then president Aristide had just been overthrown in a bloody coup d’etat and the entire world was focused on Haiti. And regardless of all the horrible news being reported, and the apparent mess that waited for us, there was no way I was going to cancel the trip. Erin was understandably a bit apprehensive, especially when we were forced to sign a waiver at the Miami airport claiming we were officially warned by the U.S. government not to travel there.

Then, less than 24 hours of arriving, the seed of Haiti had been planted and we both have been enthralled with that magic country ever since. The first reaction I had when I heard of the earthquake was, “Why?... and why in the middle of the congested, seemingly crumbling mess that is Port Au Prince?” If you were to have flown over Port Au Prince 2 minutes before this earthquake, it honestly wouldn’t have looked that different then after it.

But the thing with Haiti for me and Erin has never been the architecture, or the beautifully sculptured streets, or the lush jungles or mega resorts. Because there’s none of that there. It’s the people. It’s their lifestyle, their history and their spirituality.

I suppose that if I had to somehow scramble around to find a silver lining in this catastrophe, it would be that Haitians have been used to living in extremely difficult, almost surreal conditions for decades, and despite it are the strongest, resilient and quietly dignified people I have ever met.

Most of the structures in Haiti that have been destroyed in this earthquake will never be rebuilt. The rubble that now covers Port Au Prince (and everywhere else in Haiti) will just be morphed into hastily ‘rebuilt’ homes. Their shoestring economy has now been pretty much shut down. BUT, Haitians will breath life back into their beautiful, unique country. The tap taps will run again, the local markets will thrive again and the drums in the hills will beat again.

And I am counting the days to return there once again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

One week later. Exactly, one week later

After encouragement from my wonderful friend Mauri Parks I have decided to start a blog! So here it goes...
I woke up this morning totally excited to start the day. No snooze button, not even once, and i even had to leave an hour earlier today to head into Anchorage to drop off the car at the mechanic shop. Honestly, I can't remember the last time that has happened. I didn't even go bed until 1am and at 6:30am I was ready to get up and jump into the day. I am really on to something here, I told Christian. There is so much to do, let's go!!!
Just one week ago I had NO idea what so ever that I would be doing what I am doing right now. From the Fund Raiser I am planning for this Friday for my dear friends in Hait to Blogging to hugging the suntanned cartoonish lady at the mechanic shop over the headline on the front page of this mornings paper, "count rises to 200,000" WTF????
The earthquake in Port-Au-Prince has a lot to do with the action I am taking, right now. But even before the earthquake I have been working on VeVe Haiti; Art inspired by Haiti, Nature and Vodou. It is as if the last 5 years I have been practicing to do exactly what I am doing right now. This is a powerful realization, and I am high on life over it. The way I feel is already making me believe that the universe does have a plan for me and I can relax, finally. It makes me understand a little more the Creole Proverb: When you make plans the Gods laugh. I made a few Goals for 2010 during the first week of January to help make 2010 one of the best yet:

  1. Sell VeVe Candles and Paintings
  2. Write down your ideas immediately... Yes, I have admitted to myself that I have no short term memory
  3. Ask questions, and get advice from all the smart family and friends that I am blessed with
  4. Take an English 101 class and relearn proper grammer and punctuation so that i can compose emails correctly and start a blog. (i have decided to start the blog any way, so bare with me)

I was making progress. I started an official notebook of ideas and things to do on January 7th. I taped a VeVe drawing on the cover of a black spiral notebook, the first page is a list of supplies I had been needing to get before my trip to Haiti on the 28th. I needed new paper and brushes mostly so I could paint while relaxing in the sun on the beach in, Haiti. Of course I would need to bring enough to share with all my little friends there. One of my favorite things about my time in Haiti is drawing, painting, and coloring with the kids in our neighborhood there. We still have a lot of the drawings and the one from Ebay is on our refrigerator. On January 8th I met with a business owner and friend that I admire and respect a ton and showed her the VeVe candle idea and the paintings I have completed over the last six months. She was super impressed! Her and I brainstormed for a good hour and I wrote down all of the ideas we came up with and even typed them into the computer. Monday January 11th i met Mauri for a lunch meeting... one more page in my notebook filled. It seemed like we had not had enough time, as usual. I was feeling good. We discussed my idea of having a Haitian Art Show (i'll keep the name of it a surprise because it will still happen) that combined hand made Haitian Art with my VeVe Candles and paintings. How long after you return do you need before you'll be ready? Mauri pressed me to make a timeline. I remember Andrea had suggested having the show during spring carnival. But the second week in March seemed too soon. I needed time to get the candles ready, the paintings framed, etc., etc., excuses, excuses.

On January 12, 2010 at 4:53pm a 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti. My friend Djaloki who was in Port au Prince said, "it was as if the earth turned to liquid." I came back from my lunch hour walk to, 911:Earthquake in Haiti emails from Christian. I was in shock. I didn't believe it. That's my Haiti, those are my people. I sat here helpless watching the tragedy unravel. I went to bed that night still thinking that maybe it was a terrible nightmare. Wednesday I was reduced to tears for most of the day. Devastated by the photos and video footage, I had to DO something. By Wednesday night VeVe candles took on a higher purpose. I could use VeVe candles for a fundraiser!! I'll my prior procrastination and excuses are lifted and I am on a wild ride of my own creativity. I have been enrolling strangers in my vision for helping Haiti. I have been getting help and advice from awesome friends and family and am confident that my community is going to help support my efforts to help Haiti now and in the years to come. Please come out to Jack Sprat on, Friday January 22, 2010 5pm- 10pm to see what a VeVe candle is and, if you want, make a donation and take one home to your house and LIGHT IT and every time you LIGHT IT hold Haiti in your heart and send your blessings to Haiti. See you soon.