A Gray Day

Solid gray (#808080) square.

Image via Wikipedia

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.

New Reality Show “Living Creatively”

Children dancing, International Peace Day 2009...

Image via Wikipedia

Ready for a reality show that shows real people trying to make the best out of their lives?! Ready for a show that encourages people to help each other discover new, joyous, creative ways of living?

Then this is a show for you!

Six strangers of all ages, weights and styles of beauty will be introduced to each other and have regular, bi-weekly meetings. They will not be pulled out of their homes to live in a fancy mansion well beyond any of their actual realities. They will not be handed jobs and free access to cash beyond their wildest dreams. There will not be hidden cameras lodged in every angle of their homes. Although they will be followed by film crews at reasonable times, they will be allowed to interact with those film crews rather than ignoring their existence. As a matter of fact, the production team is encouraged to be part of the production.

So what will these people do, you ask? How will they win points? Will their be a rose ceremony and daily dismissals of participants? Will the audience have opportunities to vote? Will their be backstabbing and covert team building? Will there be sex and nude flesh?

Well, audiences, some of those things may happen, if that is the way our contestants live their lives. But, in order to gain points and move on to victory, our contestants will have to LIVE CREATIVELY and HELP EACH OTHER! Yes folks, it’s a whole new look in reality shows. Participants gain points by making creative choices in their real lives. This does not mean they have to be artists or work in a creative field, but they have to make life a creative act. They gain points for washing the dishes while singing a song. They gain points for playing with their children in a land of imagination. They gain points for building a castle out of sugar packs when they go out to eat. They gain points for helping each other live creatively. As a group, they win mega points for turning a bi-weekly meeting into a dance party.

Anything goes as long as it is done with creative joy!

There are no eliminations. At the end of the show the person who has accumulated the most creativity points wins a life full of joy (and perhaps a vacation to the location of his/her choice with guests).  All other contestants win similar prizes, even the least creative of the group. They will also leave the show with a group of friends, not enemies, and new skills to live a fulfilled life.

Now that is reality I would like to see.

Soul Day at the Zoo

I spent the day with swans
sending secret messages about
beauty, elegance, and power.

I chatted with spider monkeys
posing with purpose
for photographic evidence
of their importance.

Later their friends, not on display
played a mirror game with me
across the distance of grass and gates.

If I do this
you do this too.
Remember the child in you.

I communed with an owl
staring into his deep, soulful eyes
and finding my own feminine divine

Circles within circles of spiritual power.

I watched mother and daughter coatis
frolicking in their cage
from top to bottom and in between.

Then my daughter conquered the hippo.

 

Zoo cages always make me sad,
but the animals have voices that I can hear
when I take the time to listen

A gem of hidden trees and green
in the middle of a prairie town
is my nearest connection
to the Grail.

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

Image via Wikipedia

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...

Image via Wikipedia

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 . . . ?”

Bizarre Imaginings

17/52 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Wow! I just had a doozy of a dream. Because of my recent fascination with dream mythology, dream interpretation, and the images that represent the collective psyche of the feminine spirit, I am going to share before the images leave me for good.

Lying in bed wearing my daughter’s Halloween costume

A Bollywood dancer.

I hear my husband talking to her in the distance,

getting ready for school but discussing a sleepover

at a house owned by radicals.

She cannot go there, I scream in my head.

My husband enters the bedroom

the silky fabrics of my costume begin to lead to romance

but we start a serious discussion instead

about our daughter.

Suddenly my brother enters eating ice cream out of a carton

for breakfast.

The scene shifts, yet I am still wearing the pink and orange Bollywood costume.

I am now in some kind of beauty/talent competition

Both a contestant and an organizer.

But I am told by the head organizer (who is a person I shall not name but was recognizable )  that I cannot win

Because my name is not big enough

Because I am not a so-called professional.

I volunteer to take one of the “professional judges” to his hotel.

A person unknown to me.

We have dinner.

My husband joins us.

Italian food soaking in watery red sauce.

As we eat the discussion turns back to the sleepover

and the scary family.

I sit and worry about my daughter as the restaurant turns into a bus

We pass a smooth clear ocean,

bright pastel blue.

I leave the table to get closer to the smell of the waves and the feeling of the spray; but I am  still watching it through the windows of the bus.

Standing balanced as the bus wobbles across the road.

The ocean shifts

becoming storm-tossed.

Boiling white waves crashing toward the bus, spray shooting into the air.

I move forward to a single seat

barefoot

feet encased in mud.

I watch the spray and start to cry

but the women behind me ignore my tears

They chatter away as if nothing is happening.

I try to scrape the mud off of my feet

while watching the power of the ocean.

I talk on the cell phone,

“If you harm my daughter, I will send every Nazi hunter in the world after you,” I say.

The ocean continues to crash, while someone tries to drive through it in a car towing a bunch of belongings;
not packed away, but small pieces of life laid out on a flat bed for all to see.

One woman behind me says, “I can’t believe they are doing that!” and laughs.

I can’t believe it either, I cry more.

The mud clings to  my feet more thickly

and  . . .

Then, my obnoxious dogs decide to have a bark-howl fest for absolutely no reason that I can see other the fact that I was sleeping and everyone else had left the house. My dogs don’t howl unless they are lonely or they hear sirens going by (they learned to howl at those because of the Great Dane next door). So I was forced out of the dream when I felt like I was approaching something, and yet I don’t know what.  I clearly understand some of this dream. I also know what some of the things are supposed to represent. But this dream, with vivid details including color, smell, taste and its bizarre mixture of people and scene shifts feels important to me somehow.

Why were my feet covered with mud? Why did the women ignore my tears? Why was I crying?

I want to understand this dream.

Does anyone out there have a clue about what it means?

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).

When Writing is Hard

This is one of THOSE days.

It started at 12:00 AM when I found myself still lying awake in bed, unable to calm the tumultuous thoughts warring for attention inside my brain, and shooting through my body to create aches from hair to toenail.

Of course, none of the thoughts seemed worth writing about.

A late night shower, and I finally fall asleep. But morning comes too swiftly for me to feel any rest.

First comes the daughter apologizing for her inability to force the baby tooth out of her mouth that the dentist insisted was supposed to be out by yesterday.

Then comes the missing library book, that has evaporated into thin air or been sucked into the vortex of lost things that this tiny house somehow encapsulates. That leads to a crying fest of self-blame, “I should have found it this weekend, I should have . . . I could have . . . ” Whining and crying, but no actual helping or moves to get dressed.

I want to hide under the covers and scream or cry. I want to be able to pour words onto a page in a brilliant purging of emotion and sound that becomes my best writing yet.

But I have nothing.

So I sit down to write, hoping to find the zen of words that I mentioned a few days ago. I stare at the screen, looking for inspiration. I look at the Daily Digest from the Post a Day 2011 Challenge, hoping for a spark. I read a list of inspirational quotes.

Nothing.

I click around my computer aimlessly, wondering where motivation comes from. Wondering where my favorite authors get their ideas. Wondering if they ever have nothing to say.

Still nothing.

I know I have to write now.  It’s not that I have a looming deadline or anything. I’ve just fallen into a pattern of the day, and if I don’t write now I will be hard on myself for the rest of the day. I’m already being hard enough.

Still nothing.

I’m supposed to do an interview for the newspaper in a little over an hour. Someone suggested they write about me as interesting profile in the community. How can I be interesting if I have absolutely nothing to say or cannot write a single word? I have to write something!

So, I sit down and write this.

It is something, I guess.

And yet I still feel empty. Wordless. Silent.

Some days writing is really, really hard.

What do you do?


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