Ending, Pauses, and New Beginnings

June 30, 2011.

The last day of a jam-packed month that flew by at the speed of light while crawling at a turtle’s pace.

How did it manage to do that? I have no idea, one of those tricks of time where you live simultaneously in two dimensions–or something like that.

Perhaps if I sum up the month of Lisa you will understand more:

  • At the end of May I drove Nathan up to Okoboji, IA where he is working for a Summer Theatre Company. Sarah did not come, as she wanted to stay for the last few days of school. So, after an 8 hour drive up I stayed for a day and then drove 8 hours back to begin my stint of single parenting.
  • The last week of May also included a crazy session of planning for two on-line classes, neither of which I had taught before. Both started on June 1st.
  • The end of May also brought the beginning of Jungle Book rehearsals, the results of which I’ve written about in several posts, most recently this one.
  • With the advent of Jungle Book rehearsals came the great Kaa making project.
  • During the first weeks of June, Sarah still had piano lessons, and I had a few makeup lessons as well.
  • Sarah also took a book making workshop once a week.
  • We began helping to clear out (a little) the house we will be moving into at the end of the summer. I promised Sarah she could paint her new room, and that project started this past week.
  • Twice a week I met with the CLASS LTD group in a project that became exciting, challenging, frustrating, exhausting, and rewarding all rolled into one. That project ended today, in a Art/Drama extravaganza in the park. I don’t have any pictures (yet) of our “performance” but here are some shots of the fun had by this wonderful group of people.

  • After the festivities, I had a final lunch with my friend Heather from Little Red Henry who will be deserting me moving from Kansas some time this summer.
  • In the midst of all this, I made the decision to self-publish and began laying out the manuscript. I’m waiting on some cover art, and then I’m good to go. (This is what I consider my new beginning)
  • We also, finally, closed on the house and I dealt with all the weird financial stuff and paperwork involved.
  • Finally, Sarah and I loaded up the car for our 14 hour journey to Durango, CO to visit friends and have a mini-vacation. We are currently paused in Best Western in Garden City, KS because I could not drive anymore, and I didn’t have the energy to find a less expensive option. At least it has a pool, which was much needed after a morning in the sun of a 100+ degree day.

Does that list clarify the time confusion? Have you ever had one of those months?

A World Sliding Backwards

I had a little wrangle with bureaucracy today and gave up in a fit of frustration (or maybe a temper tantrum).

I simply wanted to accept my current reality and change my driver’s license from Colorado to Kansas. I admit, I clung to the Colorado license for a couple of reasons. Ostensibly, I held onto it because we owned the house in Durango, and I thought it would be good for one of us to still be considered a resident. In reality, though, I did not want to say good bye to Durango, and even more I didn’t want to embrace my existence in Kansas. There was also the fact that they took a really cute license photo last time, and I didn’t want to let it go.

But, we officially closed on the house and it looks like I’m stuck living here for a while longer, so I figured it was time to give in and get a new driver’s license.

“Do you have your birth certificate and marriage license?”

“Well, no.”

“A current passport will do. We need you to prove your married name.”

“But I didn’t change my name when I got married. I’ve had this name on every license since I was 16.”

“We need your passport or your birth certificate and marriage license. Oh, and proof of address.”

“Well, I’m moving into a new rental in a few weeks. I was hoping I could put that address on.”

“Not without proof.”

Needless to say, I still have my Colorado license for a while. I have my passport, but I could not deal with the bureaucracy anymore today. Besides, I feel like the passport isn’t going to be enough, because I kept my name when I got married. Its like I did something wrong, daring to maintain my identity and keep my last name.

Don’t get me wrong. I see nothing wrong with taking your husband’s name when you get married. But for me, it didn’t feel right for a number of reasons. I reserve the name change for my future (imaginary) career as a radio talk show host a la Dr. Ruth–then I will become Dr. Lisa Lee the Love Dr.

We could be twins. ;)

What really bothers me about all this was the implication about my name. I suddenly recognized that marriage, in the eyes of some laws, means that I am the property of my husband, or at the very least his legal responsibility. I mean, nobody asked him for his marriage license when he changed to the Kansas license last year. Why should I have to provide mine?

I am the property of nobody. I am responsible for myself.

Is that craziness, or just Kansas?

Well, after I finally finished jumping through bureaucratic hoops (I also had to pay for my tags today–a nice chunk of change) Sarah and I got lunch at the only coffee shop in town. I read the Tulsa paper as I was waiting only to be repulsed by the fact that Kansas is trying to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, while also forcing them and two other agencies that provide abortions to go through some inspections to grant them the right to perform abortions–inspections which might inevitably fail in pulling those rights (they’ve already yanked it from one of the three). That would make Kansas the only state to not provide any resources for this as well as the first state to pull all funding from a State Arts Council.

So basically, I believe I am now living in a state that wants me barefoot, pregnant, and the property of my husband without the ability to support myself by doing the work I do the best which involves Arts Education.

You know what scares me the most? The potential that our country could easily continue to slide in this horrific direction–backwards to a world where equality exists only in the mouths of men.

 

A call for healers… | The odd ramblings of a mind that does not quite fit

Friends, please check out this post that my brother wrote to help out Tori’s nephew.  Trust me, I’ve seen  and felt it work.

A call for healers… | The odd ramblings of a mind that does not quite fit.

 

The Balance of the Detail

When I created my little award the other day, I sparked an interesting discussion on the role of detail in writing.

So, for the sense of clarity, I’m going to go a little more into detail about what I meant. ;)

I’m not arguing for long, drawn out passages of purple prose that try to paint a picture for the reader that would be better done through a visual. Nor am I arguing for sentences that wrap words around each other in a complex convolution that ultimately has no meaning or does not move the story forward. I’m the first person to skim through those verbose passages as my inner vision never matches the description anyway. I will put down a book that tries so hard to be linguistically beautiful that the author says nothing with a lot of words.

No, the magic details that I referred to are those simple details that bring a story or a passage to life. Those details could be expressed in a few words, but with those few words an entire character/place/emotion comes to life. Those are the details that I want to learn to weave more strongly into my own writing.

I’ve been reading argument paper drafts this morning. One of my students wanted to argue about gay marriage, and why it should be allowed. Now, I obviously support gay marriage, but this particular student’s paper was completely unconvincing. The only argument he used was the fact that in  America “every man is created equal.” He kept repeating this argument throughout the paper, until he threw in a list I’ve seen before of sarcastic arguments about why gay marriage should not be allowed. (He also did not cite the list properly, but that’s a whole different issue).  We all know that our country doesn’t  really practice what it preaches, and gays are not the only ones who suffer because of it. So, without more details, his argument suffered because it wasn’t really an argument, it was a rant.

That’s my problem, rants without support. Rants without details.

As I was thinking about this post this morning (since about 4 am when insomnia struck again) I remembered a poem I wrote a while back that I haven’t really shared. Why? Because this poem came from the details around me, and I think those details support its meaning. It is not perfect, but I thought I would share. I am putting this in as a PDF, since I can never figure out how to make the formatting on my poems work.:

HOUSE OF BITTERNESS

So, to sum it all up, don’t worry that I am going to bore you with long, detailed descriptions of meaningless drivel. My challenge to myself is to learn to  perfect my use of  details, not to abuse them.

Finally I will share with you a couple of images I am stealing borrowing from my brother, because I love the details.

Long Distance Loss

Histopathogic image of senile plaques seen in ...

Image via Wikipedia

Newspaper headlines capture my eye
“Alzheimer’s deaths soar, research funding lags”
“Camp gives teens respite from Alzheimer’s”
I cry.
I ache.
I wish.

Links to my family
severed by time
by distance
by disease.
Part of me yearns for proximity
to help
to connect
to understand.
But closeness will not stop
a disease that shows not mercy.
Money will not stop
a disease of creeping time.
Love will not stop
the slow decay of inevitability.
Guilt will not heal
the broken connections
of a family
fragmented
long before the invasive disintegration
of memory,
of hope,
of dreams,
of soul.

Behind the Jungle

As my first attempt at focusing on the details, I thought I would share a little bit about the backstage adventures behind Jungle Book, Kids where I spent a lot of time over the past week.

Anyone who has ever done something for a live performance knows that back stage tends to vibrate with energy, especially on opening night.  Add to that normal excitement the fact that this show had 70 children between the ages of 7 and 12 and the atmosphere in that college theater and the crackle of energy was palpable. I’m sure if there was anymore excitement in the air bolts of lightning would have shattered through the ionized atmosphere. Seventy young children running around in various manifestations of jungle inhabitants (including plants, prickly pears, flowers, rocks, and all kinds of living creatures) created an atmosphere that could have been (and occasionally was) utterly chaotic. Thankfully, with the help of the director and the producer, the chaos stayed at a minimum except for the rare flare up of insanity.

Photo by Jill Schrader

My job, as stage manager of this production, consisted mostly of wrangling kids and trying to prevent them from talking, running, playing, touching. You know, all of the things that kids naturally want to do when they feel this much excitement. I also had to make sure the appropriate group was ready and quiet (the hardest part) for their entrances. Overall this went well, except for the monkey chorus who can only be described as a true bunch of monkeys, led in all chaos by King Louie who had a very distinct way of thinking that the rules did not apply to him. After all, he was the king.

In addition to these more traditional kid wrangling duties, I became the official makeup designer of Shere Kan, and consultant on Kaa, Balloo, and a few others. This would have been completely fun except for one little detail–the one that made opening night a challenge in numerous ways and tested my patience on many levels.

What detail could cause me, the most experienced person involved in this show, to shoot evil looks and lash out? Only one thing could push my buttons that much.

The much dreaded . . .

Now, to be fair, most of the people who helped out back stage were delightful. They put in tons of man hours and created incredible costumes. They kept things organized and helped keep the chaos down.

The ones that made the demon in me appear were the ones who decided that they knew best.  They knew that their child should wear bright red lipstick, even though we (the producer, director, and myself) wanted somewhat less “whorish” colors for these girls. They knew that their daughter’s hair would look better with the bangs down, even though those bangs hid her eyes and blocked the makeup and made her itch. They knew what should happen backstage during the show, even though they stood in the wings and (it appears) used a flashlight that showed out in the audience. They knew when to let the kids move from point A to point B, even thought that meant somehow kids were wandering around in No Man’s land where I found them by luck.

Luckily, I had a very supportive director and producer who made it explicitly clear that I was the boss backstage, and that my word was law. Of course, thanks to Stage Moms, I had a few arguments with their children who were trying to listen to their parents when their parents were WRONG! I won . . . of course. But not without having to raise my voice and be strict.

And during the final two performances we restricted access to back stage much more seriously so I did not lose my mind.

At least the kids realized that I really am nice even when I had to be mean (or at least strict). Most of them appreciated that I was there.

The only thing that brings out my dark side is a Stage Mom. So, if you ever work on a show with me, or send your children to do a show with me, leave your diva attitude behind or expect the wrath of Dr. Lisa.

Evil Eyes. Makeup design by Sarah KramerLee.

Mwa ha ha ha!

Unusual Angles, A View from the Outside

Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself and said, “that can’t be me.”

I do it all the time. I rarely let people take pictures of me, because when they do I cannot see me in the pictures. It’s more than just the “fact” that the camera adds 10 lbs (if that’s even true), but that my image of myself is completely different from the images that come out in pictures. I do not see myself as others see me, or at least as the camera shows me.

Allow me give you some examples:

My first reaction to this shot was, "Who is that woman with the really curly, busy hair? Oh, wait . . . "

Wow, I have big hair!

Of course, there is the inevitable, "how did I get so fat?" thought. This one included, "never wear that again.""

It's not just recent pictures either. This is one of those, "Wow, I'm short" photos. I am always surprised at how short I actually am. I don't feel that short (except when I can't reach something)

When did I become so round?

Now, before you say this is just me being overly critical of myself or hating myself, it’s not that. Pictures of me RARELY seem like they are pictures of me. I see myself completely differently than the world sees me. Not in a positive or a negative way, just in a different way.

Of all the shots taken of me recently, there are only a few where I say, “Oh yeah, that’s how I see myself.”

What’s different about these ones? It’s not that they are more candid. I think what I see is my concentration and focus–that is how I see myself.

To me the most unusual angle is the one where I see what other people see, and cannot reconcile it with what I see looking from the inside out.

[Nancy, from Spirit Lights the Way suggested that I try to write a response to  View From the Side's, Weekend Theme . This is my attempt. What is your perspective on Unusual Angles?]

One more series of photos, as Sarah decided to give me a makeover after I made this post. Enjoy the results, and interpret as you will:

Into the Jungle

I’ve spent the last few weeks helping out the local Children’s Summer Theater to get their first production of Jungle Book Jr. up.

It was supposed to be an easy gig that I took simply because Sarah wanted to perform in the play. She had to audition, like everyone else, and then she got cast as part of the Elephant Chorus so I agreed to be the Stage Manager. You may remember I was a little traumatized about the situation, as I discussed in this post.

The following photos were all taken by Jill Schrader:

My Little Elephant, front and center.

Sarah stands at attention the best. She's the second elephant in line, standing ramrod straight.

Sarah standing tall and singing.

Love this action shot during rehearsal

This one is just too adorable. Look at them acting all scared of Shere Khan

This little Stage Managing (read kid wrangler) gig turned into quite the project as I became:

  • Facilities coordinator and tension smoother over. (Long story, but somehow because I’m married to the Technical Director of the theater–who is currently in Iowa–it seems that it became my job to deal with all technical difficulties.)
  • Puppet designer and choreographer for Kaa the Snake.

Having Kaa, mouth open wide, come up from the pit was my idea. But hat lead to today's accident. Boo!

  • Monkey wrangler and semi-choreographer (which meant helping fix up trouble points even though my choreographic talent is limited to jazz hands)
  • Makeup designer, mostly of Shere Kan while advising for Kaa the Snake and Baloo. (I’ll add pictures of them tomorrow.)

  • And now crisis solver as Shere Kan fell off the stage today (she’s okay) and we have to deal with encouraging her to go on and adjusting her blocking for a show that opens tomorrow. She’s the second one to fall off the stage this week (the first was a child who didn’t listen when we said freeze in a blackout–she’s okay too)

No wonder I’ve been blocked, exhausted and just generally pooped.

Wish us luck for tomorrow night, but please don’t say break a leg–that’s a little to scary for this situation.

Artists vs. Zombies

 

“Feed me brains!”

Zombie Sam from terror4fun.com

The Zombie Leader lumbers towards an unsuspecting group of people who blithely go about their business reading, writing and creating. The Zombie Leaders intent to devour their energy and independent wills does not seem to faze them, until he makes his way to each one devouring brains and creating more zombies.

The Zombie leader does not discriminate when it comes to brains, but he especially enjoys feasting on young minds because of their potential to absorb energy and ideas at an overwhelming rate. Catch them young, he thinks, and they will never learn, grow, or threaten my Zombie Kingdom. Of course, he doesn’t really think this with as much insight as that. Really, his thought process is limited to “Brains!” but inside he knows that destroying a thinking, creative populace is what has made him strong and will make him more powerful.

Caught by this creature’s never-ending lust for domination and power, the young people turn into zombies quickly because they have yet to learn how to defend themselves from his overwhelming control.  As his army of brainless drudges grows, the Zombie King gains power over event those who have the skills to protect themselves and others from him. Why? Because these creative people often get so absorbed in their individual projects that they don’t sense his putrid, decaying presence until it is too late.

The more creative energy one zombie can devour, the higher in the ranks of the zombie world he/she rises. And with that strength comes more power and control over the ever-growing army of mindless drones and crucial elements of society which would help the diminishing group of rebels continue to fight the good fight.

But here’s the secret that they don’t understand (if they understood anything, which is a challenge when your brains are in someone else’s stomach):

Zombies cannot exist without artists!

Yes folks. Artists created zombies . We drew them, designed them, wrote stories about them. And while we focused on creating them, they grew stronger and more powerful. They grew to resent us, and their thoughts began to focus on our destruction. They exist because we gave them life,which suggests that we have the power to destroy them.

But I don’t think destruction is the answer. No! As artists our power comes from creation, not destruction. So, if we want to defeat the zombies and protect the creative minds of young and old alike, we must use of the power of our art itself. We must wield our pens, brandish our paint brushes, strengthen our words, mix our colors, build our connections, sing our songs, pronounce our monologues, grow or gardens, dance our dances, create our puppets, share our knowledge, and dream our dreams.

The zombies will try every trick they can–including destroying the foundations of equality and justice. They will attempt to suck the brains out of anyone, especially a leader, who leans towards valuing something other than power and money.

But in the end they will lose because artists never die–we live behind our words, our pictures, our songs, our sculptures, our ideas, and the power of our dreams. We are even capable of turning zombies back into fully functioning humans, or, at the very least rainbows. All it takes is a sprinkle of fairy dust and a lot of hard work.

Artists can rule the world!

Deciding to Get the Words Out There

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

Writers write.

I know, that’s not news, but it is true. Writer’s write.

Why do writer’s write? The numerous answers to that question would make this post far too long and uninteresting. Some say they write for themselves. Others say they write because they have to. Some say they write to learn. Others say they write to heal.

I suggest writer’s write in the hopes that the words they write will be read.

Now, I recognize that sometimes the words we put down on a page are too personal to be shared. But I am the first to admit that I picture my great-great-great grandchild picking up the fragile pages of my journals in order to learn more about his/her family, in order to learn about my life. Do I want those journals published now? No way. But I still write them (although I haven’t for a long time) in the hopes that someday someone will read them.

I would that writer’s of stories, in particular, write words that beg to be read. So, if you’ve written something and labored over it, editing, revising, crafting and so on, the last thing you want is for it to sit on your shelves gathering dust and loneliness.

My manuscript for Giving Up the Ghosts has done just that.

But, in typical Lisa fashion, the fact that I have not found a home for that book has led somewhat to my inability to focus on writing another. I’ve started several, but deep inside my overly critical brain I hear this voice:

“Why bother loser? Nobody would publish your last one. Don’t waste your time!”

Sometimes I wish that little voice would just be quiet!

Yesterday, while I was talking to my partner in creative crime, Jackie she asked, “Why don’t you just publish it to kindle?”

Why don’t I? I could give you all the lame reasons and arguments I’ve said before about not self-publishing–but really they all boil down to one thing.

FEAR!

But, everyone I’ve shared this book with loves it. I worked hard. I know it is good. Do I expect to get rich off of it? No. But, I am even poorer if I don’t allow the book out in the world for people to read. Even if I only have a few readers, at least it would be read.

So, when I got back last night, I looked up how to publish it to Kindle, and it is super easy. I also discovered what looks like a super easy to publish physical (paper back) copies as well, that can be printed on demand.

So folks, I’m going to set my words free. Of course, some day I would love to get a publishing contract and sell books the traditional way–but, as in most of my life, the traditional way doesn’t always seem to work for me. So now I’m going to do it a less traditional way.

Why? Because writers write and stories want to be read.

Stay tuned for more specifics and wish me luck.