Neewollah vs. Snowdown

I’ve spent the past few years living in small towns that pride themselves on special festivals which put them on the map. The first, Durango, CO is actually a tourist destination, so it doesn’t rely on its biggest festival, Snowdown, to make its name known. My current town, Independence, KS, does rely on the festival of Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards) to make the town grow from 10,000 to 75,000 over the course of the festival.

Yesterday, as we watched the Do Dah Parade (a parade that is supposed to be for adult participants only—kids can watch) I couldn’t help but reflect back on the Snowdown parade to compare and contrast. Now the comparison isn’t completely equal, in that I should probably wait for Neewollah’s Grand Parade, but because of the adult-ish-ness of the two parades, I can’t help but do this.  Actually, I think I’ll compare and contrast the festivals as a whole. I think the results might surprise you:

Neewollah Snowdown
Lots of family friendly entertainment A few family friendly events, but mostly adult oriented and involving alcohol
Parade costumes  (for Do Dah)were Halloween based, ranging from scary/creepy to cute Parade costumes based on a theme, and usually including as much revealing of flesh as possible
Candy, candy, candy Candy, candy, candy
Parade starts with a single firework, but its daytime so you can’t see it Parade starts with a single firework after the sun has gone down.
Held in October, so it’s cold but not freezing. Held in February, so it’s bone-chilling cold.
Some interesting parade floats—my favorite being the deer driving with a dead hunter strapped to the hood. Some interesting floats, but, depending on the theme they can become redundant. I always loved the hot air balloons that allowed for a blast of warmth on a cold winter night
A fair full of rides and fair food Multiple events all around town, but not all family friendly.
Budweiser float. Coors light sponsorship
Queen Neelah competition Spelling Bees and other competitions, many snow based competitions
Community musical Snowdown Follies

I’m sure I can make this list expand as the days continue. I do find it interesting that Neewollah seems more family friendly, but I’m not attending every event, and I didn’t do that for Snowdown either.

I just find these small town festivals interesting. How about you?


Neewollah 2: Fair, Food, Fun


At the top of the world.


But I have to say it is kind of neat having this fair (because as far as I can tell that is what Neewollah is, a giant fair with lots of food) only a couple of blocks away. it is a great distraction for my daughter, who is bouncing around the house with excitement over food, festivities and fun. She and I, with a friend, wandered around downtown before the fair started to scope out rides and vendors. Much to my surprise, and a little sadness, Sarah is tall enough for a good number of the rides this year.  She took advantage of that and rode some high-speed, high rising rides later that evening (after Nathan joined us). We all rode the Ferris Wheel together, which is always one of my favorite things to do. I love to see the world from high places.

In addition, we spent money, ate, spent money, ate . . . (are you noticing a pattern here. Between the four of us (Myself, Sarah, Nathan, and our friend Dorienne) we managed to eat the following:

1 36 oz cup of lemonade (S & L)

1 bottle of homemade root beer (D)

1 caramel apple (D)

1 sampler platter of greek food with lamb, chicken and salad (N & L)

2  floofle (????) sandwiches, I know that’s not the correct word. It’s like a stuffed pastry. (S & D)

1 cinnamon roll (L, N, S & D)

Sarah and Dorienne also got their faces painted in an attempt to help some of the college students with their not-clearly planned fund-raiser. I mostly enjoyed walking around and people watching on a Wednesday evening, since the crowds haven’t grown to uncomfortable proportions yet.


It's all in the eyes.


After all that food, we went to a friend’s house to carve pumpkins, which  was the most fun I thought.

All-in-all a decent day. Is Neewollah anything special? Well, it’s your typical fair, but that’s okay. It is an excuse to wander around in the beautiful fall weather, to treat yourself to food you would not normally eat, and to watch hundreds of people witnessing the same experience. It’s nice to hear music being sung outside (even if I have limited tolerance for Christian Rock or Country) and to see every shop loaded with non-Christmas decorations, some created by local school children.

We’ll see what happens next as parade craziness enters the picture.


Halloween Spookiness


Folding Plastic Shopping Bags

How to make a paper crane

Image by scotproof via Flickr

Washing dishes while watching another magnificent sunrise made me think of a poem I wrote several years ago. Enjoy:




Smooth the bag

release air, release breath.

Smooth, smooth.

Breathe out and in

in and out.

Fold into a long rectangle.

Fold, fold

pause between each fold

to breath, to smooth.

Fold one corner of the bottom


to meet the vertical line

of the opposite side.

Create an imperfect triangle.

But perfection can be achieved

with each fold


straight up

and angled

straight up

and angled.

Find your rhythm.

Find your breath.


and angled.


and angled.

You reach the top

an untidy mess of leftover plastic handles.

Find an opening

tuck them in

and smooth away the lumps.

A perfect triangle,

compact and ready to store.

Holding inside it

the calmness of its creation.

The serenity continues

as you take another breath

and begin again.






Learning Self Compassion

Maiden meditation

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Lying around all day doing very little but blaming myself for my inability  to do anything  but lie around all day is an act of self defeat.  Despite the fact that my lethargy probably comes from a cycle of insomnia and nightmares that have been haunting me all week (and seem to be an epidemic as many peopleI know are complaining of the same problem) I, in typical fashion, blame myself. I’ve written before about how powerful I think dream energy or sleep energy could be if we only learned to make it work for the good  rather than for mass cases of insomnia. (See this post The Power of Sleep and Dreaming « Woman Wielding Words).

I reached out briefly to the Facebook world asking for input about ideas to write about, hoping that would kick-start me into doing something. In typical fashion, I got a couple of amusing responses including:

“Fuzzy sleep stealing animals. They need to steal your sleep, but why?” and

“Secret agent cows with a mission to capture extra-terrestrial aliens, with daytime jobs of keeping our borders safe. Something like a part-time “men” in black and white. None of those brown cows, please.”

But the one that resonates most is from one of my dear friends who always manages to ground me with simple words and wise understanding. She wrote “self compassion.”

Message received , Sue, I am not practicing self-compassion. I don’t know that I have ever mastered that art. But I know it is something that I need to develop. So my first step, before deciding to blog, was to look up self compassion on the internet. I stumbled upon this website: Self-Compassion. I took the how self-compassionate are you test, and unsurprisingly am low in that department.

That has to change. Where do I begin? On the website is a guided meditation that seems like a good start, and I hope to do that later today. But that’s just one step.

I begin here, in words. This blog has become a place for me to be honest with myself. Perhaps I am too honest in a public forum, but it is easier to be honest if you know people are reading this. I also believe that others have experienced some of what I am going through, and so I feel less alone. (Note that according to the above website, feeling isolated is one aspect of the lack of self-compassion). My isolation becomes less as I write or as I read other blogs. I’ve been doing that more often lately, and trying to respond when I have something intelligent to say, because we don’t write in a vacuum. When we blog, we want to know our blogs reach someone, even if only a few people.

When I write, I allow myself to express myself.  When I write, I feel compassion for myself. When I write, I try to let go of my inner critic and just let the words flow. Of course, the critic comes out sometimes depending on what I am writing or if I’m editing. And sometimes the inner-critic censors myself, but the more I write, the more I can overcome that. The more I write, the kinder I become to myself.

So, blogging universe, I hope you forgive me if I use this space sometimes to learn self compassion. I also hope, however, that as I learn it I share my learning.  I share this journey as a gift to you, but also to myself.

Welcome and thank you.


Neewollah 1: Chili Experience

One of the things my new town is known for is Neewollah, a ten-day festival that “is the oldest and largest annual celebration in Kansas. The city of Independence will grow from a town of 10,000 inhabitants to 75,000” Today I experienced my first festival activities, and I thought I would share.

The day began looking overcast, so I prepared for chilly weather, but of course was wrong. I still haven’t figured out Kansas weather. The sun popped in an out, and then the clouds moved in. The wind picked up, bringing a slight chill, but the general mugginess of the air made me feel warm. I guess my solution is going to have to be layers.

The first event of the morning was a 5K race that I did not participate in. I am not a runner. It does remind me, however, that someday I want to participate in the 3 Day Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, so I better get back on track in the eating healthy and walking department.

Following the 5K was the Fun Run for all the school kids in town. Sarah was participating. I’d say there were more than 100 kids wandering around in brightly colored t-shirts (a different color for each school). Sarah was lucky and got purple, our favorite color. Before the race they took school pictures. Sarah couldn’t really find any of her friends, so she looked uncomfortable waiting with the purple clad kids. What also struck me, perhaps for the first time, was the fact that Sarah is not white. I know she’s not, her dad is Japanese and Korean, but it was so glaring as she sat in the midst of blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids from Independence, KS. Perhaps I’m over-sensitive, but it just really struck me today.

She’s also still suffering somewhat from ‘new kid” syndrome. We ran into one of the girls that Sarah talks about all the time, and the girl introduced Sarah to her Dad as “she’s the new kid.” I’ve never really been the new kid, so I don’t know how long that stigma lasts, or if it is even a stigma. Sarah seems okay with it, but I know it sometimes hard because she wants play dates and things but I am shy about meeting people. So maybe I’m making it worse.

Anyway, back to the race. Sarah seemed to have a good time. I think she probably walked more of it than she actually ran, but what the heck. I don’t know that she has ever actually run a mile. I’m proud of her for trying.

Next was the event I was waiting for.  All morning the wind brought interesting smells to my nose, the traditional smells of fall leaves combined with a little spiciness that meant chili was cooking in preparation for the contest. Three dollars buys you a dish, a spoon, a napkin, a bottle of water and enough chili to wreak havoc on bathrooms for the rest of the day. The first chili I tasted was the best, but it was also the most surprising. Alligator chili! I never thought I would try something like that, but oh was it good. None of the other chili recipes really stood out for me. I avoided the super spicy, not feeling up to gastronomic challenges like that today. It is always interesting, I think, standing in line with hundreds of other people in a competition over spice. I loved listening to all the jokes that never fail to happen at a chili cook-off, as everyone recognizes that our decadent overindulgence can only lead to one thing at the end of the day. Sometimes you just have to love the craziness we humans invent.

Meanwhile, Sarah was drawn to the numerous bouncing activities. I wish I had the camera with me when she competed with a bungee cord contraption to see how far she could get a beanbag before she was snapped back in a flying plunge. Her face was fabulous with wide-eyed excitement and joy. Later she went on the obstacle course slide, but it wasn’t the same.

The clouds got thicker and the wind got stronger. Our bellies were beginning to slosh with chili goodness. We decided it was time to head home, but first bought tickets for our next step on the Neewollah adventure–the town’s production of Music Man this evening.

It has been a fun start. Now I need a nap.

Ahead of My Time, Yet Falling Behind


Arizona State University logo

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9 1/2 years ago I earned my doctorate from Arizona State University. Two years of grueling course work followed by a year of intense research and writing allowed me to tack the letters Ph.D. behind my name. Then I disappeared off the face of the earth. I made choices that made me less focused on research and faded into the background of my field.

Today, I got an announcement about a Phone Forum that is going to be held by Theatre for Young Audiences/USA entitled “Difference Through Language, Dress, and Story” and my heart simultaneously sang with joy and broke with annoyance at myself. I’m excited that this topic is being raised for discussion, but I am so mad at myself for not continuing the discussion that I started almost ten years ago.

My dissertation was “Theorizing Programming for Diversity in Three Professional Theatres for Young Audiences.” Basically I looked at the concept that many of the companies that perform specifically for young people do not necessarily represent the audiences who attend the performances. The theaters are white owned, white managed, but the audiences are not.

I made the choice, I know. I did not pursue academic writing and research despite the fact that I could. I don’t know why. I know that I am a good, insightful writer and researcher. But, I allowed my fears and my excuses to get in the way of pursuing topics that I am truly passionate about. It is deeper than that though, I was afraid.

After I finished the dissertation I wrote a paper on it and submitted it for an award with AATE (the American Alliance for Theatre Education). When presenting my paper, I was attacked by several people because I am a white woman. They felt I had no right to question issues of culture and race when I was part of the majority. They ignored my discussion of my own cultural difference (being a Jew)  and experience with cultural difference (living in Japan), and refused to sway their opinion. I think I held my own in the discussion, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. I won an honorable mention, but nobody else won an award, so that in itself was disturbing. I left feeling like I had no true voice, because my passion for understanding culture was dismissed as arrogant.

I also left more frustrated than ever with the wheels of academia.

Now, I might have been emotional at the time, as I hadn’t announced my pregnancy and got morning sickness from the stress of presenting, but that is another excuse. I did not feel strong enough to fight a battle with every word I wrote.

So I stopped.

Now, the topic is hot again, and I’m glad. But I’m also a little sad, as I feel like I lost too many opportunities and gave up too easily. It will be very interesting to see where the discussion goes. I hope that people have moved beyond the idea that only people from a minority culture have the right to discuss issues concerning diversity and culture. I hope that the community is more open to understanding that respecting difference is crucial to respecting our children and our audiences.

I hope that it promotes change.

Finally, I hope that I have rediscovered my voice.

Write About the Stars (via Writing Practice: Perfecting Prose and Poetry)

This is from my other blog, but I like it so I thought I would repost. Of course, I no longer live in a high altitude (sigh) but the stars are still calling to me.

Write About the Stars Whenever I look out the window on a clear night I think, “I should do this more often, I don’t pay enough attention to the stars.” I currently live at a very high altitude, away from the lights of any major metropolis, so the sky at night is a brilliant tapestry of mystical sparks. It represents the dreams of my childhood and the unknown. Maybe th … Read More

via Writing Practice: Perfecting Prose and Poetry

ItGetsBetterBroadway’s Channel: We Need More Voices


Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

Image via Wikipedia


I needed to hear this song today.  YouTube – ItGetsBetterBroadway’s Channel.

I know it is for GLBT youths, but isn’t the message really for everyone? I believe that a lot of the hate, the bullying, the abuse, etc. comes from fear. Fear that somehow, if that person is different than “I” can’t be happy. People put others down because they are insecure in their own lives.

Yes, some of it comes from ignorance, but mostly it comes from fear. So this song is about everyone. If you live and trust in yourself and life, it gets better.

It is too bad that more people can’t see that.

While I appreciate these artists for doing this, and those who step up to give their own testimonials, I see a problem. Theater is always perceived as gay. I am in theater, I love theater, but here is a reality about theater: people who don’t get it, or don’t really understand it assume that anyone who participates is either promiscuous or gay. We all know that is a stereotype, but it is a well-known one.

So, kudos to these artists for doing this, but now let’s get some athletes, action/adventure stars, or more politicians to stand up proudly and share their stories that say “It Get Better!”

Until there is no reason to hide anymore, how can we honestly tell young people it gets better?

Wearing Purple


Purple color

Image via Wikipedia


My family is wearing purple today. I haven’t noticed if anyone else is wearing purple, but I won’t be surprised if they don’t.

I have a dream of seeing the streets of someplace like New York filled with purple. Streets filled with Spirit! Streets filled with the idea that people have the right to love who they like, believe what they like, worship as they please without being bullied, abused, or tortured. Streets filled with people who recognize that every life is valuable, and would never push someone to end his/her life.

Is that a realistic dream?

I dressed in purple today because I want to believe in the possibility that human nature is not as wicked and petty as it sometimes seems. I want to believe that we can be filled with joy, love, and support for one another.

I asked my daughter to wear purple because I want her to know that it is okay to love whoever she wants to love. I also want her to learn to stand up against bullies when she sees them. She’s only seven. She doesn’t quite understand, but she heard what I said and embraced the purple.

My partner chose to wear purple for his own reasons, but I am sure they are similar to mine.

My family wore purple today because we believe in the power of spirit and the value of life.

The Wisdom of Youth

Corvus corone in flight

Image via Wikipedia

“What is your career?” a student asked me today during a follow-up interview about the Performance Art Workshops I conducted last week.

“I don’t know,” was my unsurprising response. Unsurprising to myself, that is, as I’ve been wallowing in a confusion about my identity for a long time.

But, despite my “I don’t know” she and I got into a discussion about her future, and I felt that I said some good things. I have always felt I am a good mentor. and easily step into that role despite my own confusions.

As I was leaving, I was introduced to another member of the school He asked me where I was from and I said “Most recently Colorado, but originally Massachusetts.” Note that I didn’t automatically say Independence. His response was “Oh, a world traveler.”

On the way home I was listening to “Watershed” by the Indigo Girls:

“Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize
Till your agony’s your heaviest load.
You’ll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile.
When you’re learning to face the path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while.
Well there’s always retrospect to light a clearer path
Every five years or so I look back on my life
And I have a good laugh.
You start at the top, go full circle round
Catch a breeze, take a spill
But ending up where i started again makes me wanna stand still.”

And then it all came together in my mind. I may not be able to define myself, but I have lived and incredibly interesting life. It’s not over yet, and I have no idea where it is heading, but my story and my experiences are valuable. They have made me into a person who values people, who questions authority, who doesn’t blindly move forward. They have made me a good mentor. they have made me a person with ideas and thoughts to share.

Now, I have to put that down somewhere. So begins another of my projects tentatively called A PATCHWORK LIFE. We’ll see where it goes.

So my drive on “the country mile” took me to a new path towards myself. Thanks to the wisdom of youth.

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