A Gray Day

Solid gray (#808080) square.

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Not just the solid-packed sky
looming overhead with stormy potential.

Not just the bitter cold
threatening and biting
into solid bone.

Not just the thick air
filled with particles of undecided consistency
some wet and  clinging, desperate to hold on
some sharp and icy, biting brutally
some filmy mists, touching with ghost-like fingers.

The gray fills my head
a scratchy feeling of unclean wool
tinged with frustration and regret.

My heart beats gray
the color of loneliness
sadness
fear.

My stomach fills itself with gray cravings
for unhealthy sweets
and food full of grease.

My mouth tastes gray
food crumbling into dust with every bite.

My tears fall gray
although I do not let them show.

The world has become completely gray.

Saturday Morning Vent

Yesterday’s Post a Day suggestion asked

What’s going on in your life right now that’s driving you nuts?”

This made me chuckle as my past few posts have been cleverly (or not so cleverly) and creatively (or not) disguised vents, rants and diatribes about a life gone chaotic.

So today I will share a simple vent.

Saturday morning should be the start of a lazy day with cartoons and pancakes and snuggly blankets.

Saturday morning should be a time for family and warm drinks while still wearing pajamas.

Saturdays should be days of family times including outside events, the occasional kids acting class, and some kind of social gathering in the evening, or simply movie night.

But not in this household. Not with my husband’s single job that is really three.

Saturday morning means the alarm going off at 6am as usual. It means me dragging my carcass out of bed in order to drive him to work by 7:30 am where he will remain until at least 9:30pm. (The issue of us only having one car adds a separate level of venting).

At least I stayed in my pajamas.

Now, I’m not really concerned if our employers read this, because they know. Last semester he tracked his hours, in the hopes that a valid argument could be made for 1) an increase in salary and 2) a justification for him to take the summer off to work at a summer theater while still getting his full year salary.

I think it pretty much worked, since he averaged 55 hours a week last semester, and that was the easy semester. I think that he even worked about 30 hours on the week he broke his ribs.

I know, we do theater. We live creative lifestyles. I am crazy busy myself, because of choosing projects and to teach classes, but here’s the thing; there is a difference between choosing projects and assuming that one person will be available for all the events that other people choose to do. Those events range from student movie nights, to special performances for students, to 24 hour plays, to regular productions, to musical performances and so on. Meanwhile, he starts work anywhere between 8 and 9 am daily (although sometimes he starts earlier and does work at home, stays until at least 5, and works at home many evenings.

At most he gets one day off a week, and sometimes not even that.

So, Saturday morning in this house means nothing really.

At least I chose to say “NO!” this time so I can spend the day with our daughter.

Vent accomplished. I leave you now with this calming thought about Saturday Mornings:

The Arts vs. Sports, SMACKDOWN 2011!

Wrestling photo

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In this corner, SPORTS!!!
Usually well-funded.
Beginners welcome, but to actually play you must make the team.

Teaches teamwork,  discipline, commitment. problem solving and precision body work

Student athletes are expected to attend classes regularly. . .

. . . except when they have a game,
or are travelling for a game,
or have to meet with a scout,
or receive a text from the coach in the middle of class
or they are sick.

Student athletes are supposed to maintain a C average . . .
except when they are star athletes
in this instance teachers must bend over backwards to ensure passing grades.

In this corner Arts Programming!!!!
Generally underfunded.

Beginners welcome, and we usually will find something for you to do.

Teaches teamwork,  discipline, commitment, problem solving, creative thinking, communication skills, presentational skills, fundraising, time management, business skills, management skills, and often includes elements of physical/body training

Students of the arts are expected to attend classes regularly including classes in other disciplines. The rare exception is when there is a showing or conference that benefits their education
or they are sick.
(Sick students are still expected to perform in live performances unless they are in the hospital.)

Student artists are expected to maintain a C average
while attending rehearsals every evening
and memorizing lines or rehearsing music during their free time (which is often consumed by work to help support them through their arts programming)

ATHLETES ON SCHOLARSHIP MUST PLAY IN ALL GAMES!

ARTISTS ON SCHOLARSHIP CAN PICK AND CHOOSE PARTICIPATION
(however once they commit, they should stay committed and not quit for random reasons)

ATHLETES ON SCHOLARSHIP MUST ATTEND ALL PRACTICES!

PERFORMERS MUST ATTEND ALL SCHEDULED REHEARSALS
(however we will make every effort to adjust the schedule around your athletic practices, games, and work needs.)

ATHLETES MUST PLAY IN ALL GAMES, EVEN THOSE ADDED MIDWAY THROUGH!

PERFORMERS MUST ATTEND ALL TECHNICAL/DRESS REHEARSALS AND EVERY SCHEDULED PERFORMANCE!
(Flexibility in scheduling ends for one week only, when the show must take priority. Show dates are dictated by the agreement made when paying royalties, therefore we cannot change the dates of performance to accommodate your game schedule)

SMACKDOWN!!!!

.

.

.

And the WINNER is . . .

Where Were You When . . . ?

Space Shuttle Challenger ' s smoke plume after...

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25 years ago today the Challenger exploded in the sky, creating a fireball of true devastation. A friend reminded me about this on Facebook, after she heard a story on NPR.

This got me thinking about the key moments that mark our lives. The moments that people say, “Where were you when . . . ?”

When I was a (really) little girl, I vaguely recall those conversations beginning with “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” But that really wasn’t a moment in my life.

The moments for those questions reflect on the greater history of our lives, and our reactions to those moments reflect on us as individuals.

Where was I when the Challenger exploded? I was in French class and they brought televisions into the classrooms so we could watch. I remember crying as the fireball burned. One of my favorite teacher’s from school had applied to be on that shuttle. She wasn’t selected (thankfully) but my heart broke for the teacher who was and for her family.

Where was I during the Blizzard of ’78, a blizzard that impacted areas of the East Coast for at least a week, if not longer. I remember being sent home early from school the day it began. The snow swirled around my feet as I walked back from the bus stop. The speed of snow gathering was amazing and beautiful. Of course, as a kid, the impact of a snow day or snow week was much more about the joy of not having to go to school and opportunities to play in piles of snow so high that they reached the second story windows. But, I also remember neighbors helping neighbors as we walked to the only open nearby store for supplies, dragging a sled behind us.

Where was I when on 9/11? I was watching reruns of Little House on the Prairie in Poultney,  VT as I did not have to go into teach until later that day. I remember the screen changing to the shocking scene of a plane hitting a tower followed by a scream coming from my own voice as I burst into tears. I remember thinking, “Oh my god! This means war! I don’t want that.” That day, that week, and that month became surreal since we were close enough to NYC to have students who lost family or whose parents were firefighters. Of course, that event itself is one of the defining events of our country at the moment. I can never watch Little House on the Prairie with quite the same relaxed laziness.

Where was I when Obama was sworn in? Like millions of others I was in front of the tv, wishing I could be there in person. Things may not have gone quite the way I had hoped on that day, but I still have HOPE. I’m not ready to completely give up on this country yet.

I’m sure I am missing many crucial events that define the world. What are they. How would you fill in the question “Where were you when . . . ?”

Life on a Speeding Train or The Show Must Go On

Yesterday morning I posted this as my status update on Facebook:

I really should have done that.

The day started with  creaks and groans as I slowly tried to make my way out of the station and gain some momentum. I eventually managed to work my way through the rust of an aging train (okay, I know I’m not really that old, but just go with the metaphor) and chugged forward.

I wrote a few words.

I talked to a new passenger.

I gathered a little energy and started moving forward, although still cautious and hesitant.

Eventually I made it to the first dangerous section of the track. This is the section that moves at high-speed with loud clangs, bangs and arguing passengers. If I don’t make it to speed then the train will come crashing off the tracks and everyone on it will fall into the chasm below.

My class.

Yesterday I taught Theater Appreciation. I approach the class by introducing the variety of elements and work that go into the making of theater. We read plays, we watch, we talk about acting, directing, designing, etc. We don’t just talk about it though. I have my class do activities to experience all aspects even on a small-scale. So my class rarely consists of lecture, but more of active participation and discussion.

This semester, I have about 26 people in the class. Of those, only about 6 are female. Of the remaining 20, a large portion are athletes, including about 3/4 of the basketball team. Those players, as can be expected, tower over me  as they approach the proximity of 7 feet tall.

I am only 5 ft tall.

Needless to say, there is a slight intimidation factor in the room. Despite the fact that I am the instructor with the multiple degrees (or the conductor if I am going to stick with the train metaphor) the combined testosterone in the room can get a little overwhelming.

Yesterday, they decided to act like 5-year-olds. I was writing some information on the white board that they needed to have when someone flashed those obnoxious red pinpoint lights at me. The team snickered.

Train derailed!

I got angry and caught the culprit, confiscating his toys. Then they went into a mutual sulk, only wanting to work if they were “getting extra credit.”

I wanted to throw some passengers off the train over a really tall bridge.

I managed to regain control and careen through the rest of the class, eventually moving on to a calmer stretch of track.

After a few more twists, turns, and rumbles I arrived at my final stop of the day; aka the circus. (Okay, not really the circus, but rehearsal for School House Rock!)

Just when I think it will be safe to stop the train, unload the passengers, and get the show started disaster strikes! Someone built a gigantic brick wall on the tracks; I’m not sure if it was intentional sabotage but it sure felt malicious. With a loud  squeal of brakes, I crashed.

One of my actors quit. The one with the most lines. The one who plays the teacher. Now, he insisted on calling that the lead role, but in reality the role is kind of just the focal point (or if I am going to rejoin the circus metaphor) the ringmaster. All the other acts are more spectacular and exciting, more musical, but the role exists to help guide the audience to the next ring.

And he quit. 5 seconds before showtime (aka rehearsal).

His explanation, “I have deep issues with musicals. I don’t value them, and this one is just not going to work” or some such inane blather.

But, as any good show person knows, “The Show Must Go On!” I gave myself a minute to gather my emotions together, announced the change of plans, and went on with rehearsal. I think I have even come up with an interesting solution as long as I can convince someone to take on a new role.

The fort made of blankets seems even more appealing today.

Thanks for going with me on a journey of mixed metaphors. I hope today’s ride goes much smoother.

Otherwise, look for me in a pile of blankets somewhere. I won’t be coming out for a while.

Today’s Aha! Moment

This morning I was interviewed for a profile in the local paper because someone suggested I might be an interesting person. I don’t know how interesting a character I am, but I’m flattered that someone thought I was interesting. I also hate interviews about myself, but if it means free publicity for the show I’m directing I do it anyway. I feel like telling my story, or talking about myself, just reveals how chaotic and direction-less my life has become.

After the interview I was struck by something. The reporter asked, “What made you end up in Kansas?”

What made you end up in Kansas?

This is the exact phrasing that every person who meets me uses. What made you end up in Kansas? It’s like Kansas is the end, the bottom, the lowest pit of hell; someplace you don’t want to end up in. No wonder I am having mixed feelings about this move.

Seriously, if the locals refer to this place in those terms, then why wouldn’t someone who never expected to move to the middle of nowhere be a little confused about what it means to be here?

I always feel guilty when people ask me how I am adjusting or if I like it here. I like some things. I’ve met some wonderful people. I’ve had some great opportunities. But, my truth is that I don’t feel at home and I don’t know that I ever will. I am open, however, to working hard and doing my best for this community for however long I stay.

But if the community implies somehow that it is “lesser than” should I feel guilty about my own confusion?

Aha! The answer is no. I will work hard and create wonderful things while I am here, but when the time comes for me to leave I will not look back (except to keep in touch with friends).

I Love Women

No, this is not a sudden declaration of a shift in my sexual identity. I haven’t switched teams.

I am merely recognizing something about myself and the way I interact with the world. I am acknowledging the importance of one specific community to my life.

The community of women.

When you get a group of intelligent, creative women together magic happens.

Yesterday, as the final experience of the Cornerstone Theater Intensive, we divided into groups to create a piece of collaborative art, using some of the elements we had discussed over the weekend.

The Cornerstone team selected the groups for us. I admit a slight curiosity about what criteria they used for that division. I believe that they are great interpreters of group dynamics, and so selected certain people to work together because that would be best for the entire group as a whole. But I could be wrong.

I was delighted to be working with three wonderful women: one I just met over  the weekend but really liked; an older woman who I’ve met in the past, and love talking with; and one who I feel is becoming a good friend. We got together and that collective, powerful, woman-magic happened. We shared stories and ideas and created a performance that reflected us all, without even really having time to rehearse.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that women can be truly cruel and evil to each other. I recall some true grump-fests at Smith College, when the entire floor of our house filled with 63 women had their periods during the same week. Thankfully the cycles went floor by floor, rather than the whole house simultaneously.

But then again, I think of the powerful imagery of The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, where the woman come together and gain power from their communal menses. Where the women have control of their own sexuality, and virginity. Perhaps we have lost something as women by not celebrating together the joys of being women.

Back to the present though. I love women.

In the recent months some of my treasured memories will come from meetings of women. First was the introduction of Ladies’ Night here in Independence, when a group of wonderful women come together and solve the problems of the world rather than having a giggling gossip fest.  Then, last month, a mini-reunion of friends from Smith reconnected me with the joy of  spending time with intelligent women who share a common bond.

At this very moment, my daughter sat next to me and asked, “what are you writing about?”

“About how I like to spend time with women.”

“I think that’s cool.”

My daughter, a powerful woman in the making.

This semester seems to be one of those rare occasions when I have more males in class than females. I always find those more challenging. The classes are louder and everything leads to a potential dirty joke. In my Theater Appreciation class the male/female dynamic becomes even more challenging with 3/4 of the basketball team insisting that they are, indeed, a team that cannot be separated. (Note that, as a team, they all missed class the other day–but not for basketball).  This leads to a constant balancing act as a teacher–between allowing freedom of expression and utter loss of control.  The women in the class have the tendency to contribute more, simply because they have actually done the work. Interestingly enough, the men who have done the work are quiet, perhaps overwhelmed by the battle of testosterone coming from the basketball corner.

I admit, I prefer classes with more women.

Throughout this intense weekend, the male/female dynamic became more obvious to me. Not that all the males behaved one way, or all the females another; but I became conscious of how males and females respond in community/collaborative environments.  Two males in particular felt the need to claim their space when talking, sharing their wisdom with the masses. The women shared as well, but their sharing seemed to be more responsive. The difference between “I hear what you say and I’m assimilating that into my thought process as I respond” and “I guess I hear you, but my opinion is much more valuable.”

I recognize this is not universal. Not all men are aggressive, dominant loud mouths. Nor are all women all-embracing earth mothers. But, at certain times I become aware of the true power of women working together in a group.

No wonder a male dominated society has tried to control us for so long.

If women ruled the world, magic could happen.

When the Stomach Adjusts

Oven roasted rosemary chicken

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Just after New Year’s I–like so many others–embraced a resolution towards a healthier lifestyle. Mine, however, incorporated technology in new and unexpected ways, as I wrote about here A New Technological Obsession and a New (Healthy) Body?!.

Well, I’m happy to report that it seems to be working. Five pounds lighter after only 11 days seems to indicate a positive trend.  I’m not dieting, as evidenced by the small piece of chocolate cake that I indulged in yesterday. Instead, I am just conscious of what goes into my mouth, how it relates to my overall dietary needs, and how many calories I burn on a given day. I am making more effort to exercise, even if in only short burst of activity. I don’t feel guilty when I do indulge, because I know that I will make it up the next meal or the next day.

Just now, eating lunch, I had selected a nice chicken breast, some baby carrots, and a half a pita. As I ate, forgetting the pita, suddenly I realized something miraculous. I DIDN’T WANT THE PITA! My stomach as saying, “You know, you really don’t need that right now. So don’t eat it.”

Lizzy got a special treat in my celebratory joy.

You know the best part, I can have a high carb, high fiber treat later in the day, when my stomach wants it.

I think that is pretty cool!

Now I think I might go tap dance for a while.

Animal Mysteries

Meet Lizzy and Jasper, four-legged princess and court jester in our chaotic castle.

The mystery is not why they are languidly lying in our bed, Lizzy content on my side, Jasper curled up on Nathan’s. That mystery was solved long ago when the weak-willed king and queen of the castle succumbed to the sweet wiles of princess Lizzy.

Well, actually Lizzy mastered the manipulation of Lisa’s guilt. One day, we took her for a ride in a soft-topped Kia convertible on an adventure to meet friends. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm chose to fill the sky. I have the tendency to cringe–who am I kidding–crumble up into a shaking ball of terror when loud thunder hits. Blame that on the kids who threw cherry bombs at me when I was a little girl. Anyway, try as I might, I was unable to hide my fear from the nose of a dog, who immediately adopted that fear and called it her own.

Then lightning struck. Literally. It hit a the top of a tree in front of us, causing it to burst into flame.

One lesson in being terrified of thunderstorms taught.

The connection between the thunderstorm and the bed should be obvious. Until that point Nathan and I were determined to keep her out of the bed. But, when the next thunderstorm hit during the night,  it would take a mountain to ignore the trembling body and liquid begging eyes searching for protection in the cozy comfort of the bed.

She never left.

When Jasper came into the household, the most we were able to do was keep him out of the bed at night. After all it was Lizzy’s bed.

That is not the mystery.

The mystery lies in the fact that they are not small dogs. No, their combined weight of about 120 pounds is definitely beyond my capacity to control.

I admit that, more often than not, the bed they choose to lie in is unmade. I go through bed-making stages that range from perfectly neat including hospital corners to pulling up the covers and pushing down the lumps in the hopes it looks somewhat presentable to a complete “I can’t be bothered” mess.

The mess leads us to the mystery. If the bed is too messy then I need to make it before I can get in it. (I know, I know, that would be solved if I just made it in the morning). However, if one or both of the dogs has decided to go to bed already, I must force them out of the bed if I want to make it. I simply cannot pull the covers out from under a 60 lb. dog. Nathan can, to some extent, but I always picture the bedspread or sheets tearing under the strain.

Hence, the mystery. If neither of us is able, in a waking state when we have some control over our muscle power, to move covers under the weight of a dog, then HOW DO ALL THE COVERS END UP ON MY HUSBAND’S SIDE OF THE BED WITH THE DOG SLEEPING ON TOP OF THEM ALL NIGHT?!

Seriously . . .

 

Voices without Action will Never Be Heard

First edition of Gulliver's Travels by Jonatha...

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Yesterday we went to see Gulliver’s Travels with Jack Black. I enjoyed it in some ways, less so in others. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

Searching for an idea to write about this morning, my husband suggested I write in response to the movie. In this version, the story focuses less on a social criticism of politics and society (I recall the book does that, but it has been a long time since I read it), and more on a man who talks big but never takes action, and thus never makes his mark on the world.

Okay, I thought. I can work with that. Then I drove my husband to work.

The ten minute drive home became an epic journey in the recesses of my brain. I jumped from “people who talk but never act” to “is writing, talking without action?” to “I talk a lot but what actions do I take?” to “AM I ONE OF THEM?!?”

Am I one of them? Am I one of the people who talks a lot, writes even more, and yet never really takes action? Or, does action have to be taken on the grand scale of Martin Luther King, Jr or Dr. Paul Farmer? Can writing be my action, if my writing causes people to think about the world a little differently? Do I take action in my classrooms by challenging my students to become a little more open-minded and not accept the status quo without questioning?

I guess this comes back to how we define success. If success can only come with a name splashed across newspapers or whipped around the internet, then my actions have not been big enough or done enough. If, however, success can be defined by things like this message sent to me on Facebook in response to a Pep Talk I sent as this young person took a step in a new direction:

“When I first read it last week, I seriously bawled my eyes out. It made me realize that I was indeed ready to move on and that the chapter in my life that was [. . .] is now closed. [. . . ]All I can say now is thank you for being my Oracle and [. . .] believe me we’ll be writing to each other as I will be in need of your advice!”

Well, moving past the concept of me being an Oracle, the sentiment makes me think I do take action, even if my actions are small. Maybe, for me, action through language and caring is the action that will leave the biggest mark in the world, even if that mark is small in comparison to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

As for being an Oracle . . . oracle’s can see the future. I don’t have that power. I do, however, have the POWER to recognize people with potential to make their marks in the world, and have the POWER to make my own little mark as well.

I have a voice. I do take action. I will be heard.