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.

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  • 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.

An Eye for Details

Sarah spotted this bejeweled spider web on the way to the play this weekend. Enjoy the exquisite detail.

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!

The Magic is in the Details

Writing

Today I want to point out two magnificent posts from the past week that have made me realize something about my own writing, something that I am going to challenge myself to change. Both these writers captured me with the eloquence of their details–details which made the locations and people that they were writing about  come alive in my heart and  my brain.

Ed, over at Salt ‘n Peppah, wrote this stunning descriptive passage on a day when  New York took a positive step toward change by legalizing gay marriage:

“The Stonewall Inn was barely open this early afternoon. “The gays” typically don’t begin bar hopping until much later in the early evening, so the bar was deserted, except for a short little fire plug bartender named typically, Joe. He welcomed us in immediately as if desperate for company on this miserable Saturday afternoon. Folding our dripping umbrellas and leaving them by the front door, I looked around. You could smell the age and the mustiness of this dark and dingy place. A thick painted tin ceiling and dark poster filled walls hugged us as small tables were tossed about a small elevated “stage” hardly protected by a single red velvet rope. Black and white photos of the now famous “Stonewall Riots” were haphazardly placed around on the deep paneled walls of this establishment. Framed newspaper and magazine clippings of history were draped behind the bar. Somehow the light of day made this bar look like me when I wake up in the morning. Raw and exposed. Pale and puffy. Vulnerable yet somehow as cozy as the thick fleece robe I throw on to ward off the early morning chill.”

(Here’s the link to the rest of his post, called “Stonewall“.) Eds post was powerful because of its timeliness, but also because of  the details. He described a place in a way that showed an emotion and brought into focus the world around us. I wish I could do that. Yes, I know that I am good at ideas and issues, but I feel severely lacking in the details.

As usual  when I read Kathy’s post at Reinventing the Invent Horizon, my awe of people who can  write the details so they strengthen the message only grew.  Kathy is a master at  making details come to life to show the truth in the story she shares. Here’s an example from the post called “Close Encounters with Well-Wigged Old Women and other Adventures in Government-Subsidized Housing”:

“Bea, like Evelyn, had obviously, at one time, been a stunningly beautiful woman, a fact betrayed by facial features that shown through despite her age—high cheek bones and big, blue eyes that still twinkled when she smiled.

Bea was one of the few ladies in the group who didn’t wear a wig, and for a woman well into her 90s she had a head of gorgeous, light brown curls.  True her hair was largely gray, but she retained enough of the brown to surprise you, since otherwise she looked so old and borderline antique.

Bea was also one of the ladies who slept most afternoons, waking herself up every few minutes with her own overly-sized snores.

But then again, Bea never stayed more than 30 minutes at a time, as when nicotine called at least twice an hour, she struggled to her feet from the over-stuffed chair, shuffled her pink-slippered feet across the industrial blue carpet, and disappeared into her apartment several doors down, only to reemerge a few minutes later having snuck a cigarette or two, still insisting upon her return that she had had to use the rest room or make a phone call.  Never mind she smelled like smoke over the tic-tac she sucked and the Avon she had sprayed post-puff.”

The magic is in the details.

I am setting myself a writing challenge this week. I am going to focus on the details of whatever stories I write. I’m going to write stories that have details, not just the rants that I seem to be known for. But, I need your help, because as much as I want to do this, I’m also afraid. So here is how you can help, if you would like. Ask me specific questions. Some of you have read me enough to know that I have had a bizarre life, but for some reason I find it trouble to write about the details of that life. I avoid the specifics, and write more about the sweeping philosophies and lessons learned. Maybe, if you ask me specific questions, I’ll be able to focus more on the details.

I know that is my next step to grow as a writer. Can you help?

In order to help me do this, I decided to create an award that I am giving to Ed and Kathy. I’m not very good at creating graphics, so forgive my lame attempt (and if someone is better at it and wants to improve the details of my design please let me know). But here is the first official The Magic is in the Details Award. Congratulations to Ed and Kathy–ignore this as you will.

 

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.

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