This Time It’s Different, Coming Home to the Unknown

“Welcome home, everyone,” I said into the walkie-talkie as we crossed over the border of Massachusetts.

Welcome home. Welcome home. The words echoed in my head, each time resonating with new meanings and new messages until the words became meaningless.

After all, I am still trying to understand what home means to me.

Of course, this is literally coming home, since I grew up in MA, and only moved away from the state after college when I began my adventures teaching English in Japan. (Of course, there was one summer during college when I lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but I’m not sure that counts).

When I left it all those years ago, I never thought I’d be back. Not that I made a conscious decision never to return to Massachusetts, but that I thought life would continue to lead me in all sorts of directions. I’m not sure where I thought I would end up. I had dreams of New York City, or perhaps London or Paris. I had thoughts of making it big in Los Angeles or perhaps becoming a politician (eek!) and living in Washington, DC. I had a brief thought of living in Boston as well, and working for some editing company.

The truth is that I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or where I wanted to be. And I still don’t.

Life has taken me on an unexpected journey, making me land in places I never even considered. This return home  is merely another stop in the journey, but a stop that represents a full circle in many ways.

Driving into Massachusetts, then, contains levels of familiarity mixed in with something new and something completely different. What is the difference? Well, it is the unknown.

For the most part, whenever I have moved someplace, I already had work lined up or some clear plan. The exception to that was when I had just graduated with my MFA in directing and decided to move in with Nathan who lived and taught in Edwardsville, IL outside of St. Louis. I had no job, no clear plan of what I wanted to do, and no clue how to find something. I remember going into a deep depression as I struggled to find work and figure out how to use the degree that I had fought to earn, in a kind of ugly battle that was the beginning of my disillusionment with academia and with certain aspects of the theater world. Eventually, however, I found myself working with the International Economics Society as kind of a general office worker, and with the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) in St. Louis as a part-time House Manager, while I tried to find my way into the theater scene as a director. I learned a lot from those experiences, including the fact that I don’t really like the drudgery of working in an office from 9-5. My experiences there led to the next decisions of my life which eventually brought me to where I am today.

But where am I? I am back in the same position I was then, as we made the move for Nathan’s work and I don’t have any specific work lined up until the spring (when the University Nathan is working for has offered me a class).  I’m back in the unknown, not sure where or how to start looking. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

But this time it is different. I may be unsure of what I want to do, or how to go about doing it, but I carry with me some valuable pieces to help me along the way. I’m not talking about the belongings that we lugged with us across the country (not even this computer which is my lifeline in so many ways). No, I carry with me the following:

  • Knowledge and experience: I have proven to myself time and time again that I can achieve any project set in front of me, and that I am capable of gaining the knowledge I need in order to face all challenges successfully.
  • Words: I am a writer. I write. I may not have made a lot of money out of it, but I have the talent and ability to write, and that is a valuable thing to have.
  • Diversity. I am a walking advertisement in all aspects of diversity. I have diverse skills that can help in many positions. I have an open mind to diverse possibilities. Heck, even my family represents diversity, with a husband who is Japanese/Korean American and a daughter who is, then, a Japanese/Korean/Jew. The ability to communicate and embrace diversity in our world is a valuable skill to have, and I believe I have it.

So what does any of this mean? I still don’t know, but I do know this time it’s different. I may be facing the unknown yet again, and be as clueless as I was when I left my MFA program so many years ago. But I will not allow that to bring me down. I will create a path and a life that I love, so that perhaps coming back to Massachusetts will really feel like coming home.

 

Travels with Dogs, When Blogging Buddies Meet, Driving Toward Irene, and Happy Feet

Some of you have expressed concern as we wend our way east toward Irene, so I will start there. During the drive yesterday from Lexington, KY to Hazelton, WV the only indication of the deluge ahead were wispy clouds across the sky. We even had a gorgeous sunset.

Sunset begins.

Irene only stopped by to say “Hello” as I sat in the car with the dogs while Nathan checked us into the hotel. Suddenly the rain poured down like someone had overturned a bucket and the trees started to whip. I was glad we weren’t still driving, but the convenient timing really only led to a struggle getting Lizzy out of the car. She doesn’t do storms. We are going to hang around here until check out (about noon) in the hopes that we will drive behind the storm, rather than into it. We are only heading to Douglassville, PA today, so hopefully that won’t be too bad. I suspect our worse day of driving will be tomorrow, depending on if roads have been shut down or if there is any flooding on our route. I hope all of my friends witnessing this storm are safe.

Enough about Irene. I had the honor and privilege of meeting and spending the day with one of my favorite bloggers and her partner on Friday. Kathy, of Reinventing the Event Horizon, and her partner Sara are every bit as wonderful, talented and intelligent as you would imagine from reading Kathy’s posts. We had a delightful day talking, laughing, sharing stories, seeing their house which is full of fabulous finds from around the world, as well as spectacular designs and creations by Kathy herself. I even got to see her current work in process, that is going to be magnificent and look perfect in their lovely home. I met their dogs as well, and absolutely fell in love with Ralph.

Our meeting at Third Street Stuff. We are pointing at an important saying for both of us.

Live creatively or die.

Sarah and Kathy in front of fabulous gates painted by Kathy.

Sarah and Kathy inside Sara's lovely garden. That's Lizzy's face, too.

They took us on a tour of one of the horse tracks (Keeneland) and a drive out to Medway where we ate ice cream and I helped convince Kathy to sell some of her fabulous Christmas ornaments in a shop that sold beautiful art by local artists. (Sorry if I pressured you there Kathy–I’m good at marketing others, not myself.)

Sarah, Kathy and I have a horse race.

A fabulous couple!

Future jockey?

Everyone needed ice cream

There was an error, so Nathan got two. 🙂

During all these adventures, we drove around with our dogs, as we couldn’t leave them at the hotel. Kathy and Lizzy bonded beautifully. As our final stop of the day, before we left them to have dinner with old friends, they took us to a dog park and we let the dogs explore for a while.

Three happy friends.

All in all, a truly delightful day.

I have to admit, I was really nervous about meeting Kathy. I am shy and self-conscious, always worried that I am going to say or do something stupid. But I enjoyed every moment of our conversation and feel like I made some wonderful new friends. I hope they felt the same, and look forward to Kathy’s post about our adventures sometime this week.

Our day did not end with Kathy and Sara. We had dinner with another Lisa, a friend of Nathan’s since high school and a soul sister of mine since the day Nathan introduced us. Her daughter is only a couple of months older than Sarah, and they too were almost instantly like sisters when they first met last Christmas. So, Sarah ended up sleeping over (we couldn’t all stay with them this time because of busy schedules and roof issues), and Lisa convinced me that before we headed back onto the road I should treat myself to my first ever pedicure.

Three more happy friends.

Happy feet!

Travels with Dogs and Children

Last night was one of those nights where I wondered why I am fighting so hard to keep the dogs with me.

Of course, the day before was one of those days where I seriously questioned my sanity for ever giving birth to a child as well. 😉

Backtrack to the truck loading day from hell (seriously working inside that truck was pretty close to the fires of hell I’m sure), which I wrote about here. What I didn’t mention was the crying and screaming fits of frustration that Sarah went into every time I asked her for help. She helped somewhat early on, but then the littlest task (“please refill my Bubba”) would send her into a wail of agony.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that moving is hard, and she was probably feeling overwhelmed and nervous. I also admit freely that I lacked something in the parenting department and found my ability to empathize sweating out of my pores. I even made an agonized phone call to my friend Jackie, begging and pleading, “Will you please come take my child away!”

Too bad she never got the message. Eventually, another dear friend Hannah realized that Sarah was still at the house and saved both Sarah and myself from completely destroying our relationship in a move-induced haze of emotion.

Meanwhile, the dogs, sensing big things, grew increasingly concerned that they might be left behind. They trailed me around the house and made every concerted effort to escape out the door at any possible moment. Lizzy made it once too, sneaking out an improperly closed door into the garage and making a beeline to the moving truck in the hopes she would be able to climb aboard. Meanwhile, she terrified the unsuspecting male pedestrian who backed away at the sight of a determine 60 lb. dog (who, I should point out, would never hurt a human although she has been known to get a chicken).

Fast forward to yesterday where Sarah spent the morning bouncing between friends, and Nathan and I managed to squeeze everything in so we wouldn’t have to mail anything to ourselves. We then cleaned every nook and cranny of the house. “Have you ever noticed,” I asked him as I scrubbed an area that hadn’t been reached in a while, “that we spend more time cleaning for a place we no longer live in?”

Needless to say, yesterday, as the house became emptier and the cavernous echoes grew, the dogs became more concerned. When we decided to have final lunch with some friends (pushing our already delayed timetable back even further) and left them in a house that contained only trash bags and rooms that still needed to be cleaned, they expressed their concern by tearing into one of those trash bags in revenge. Luckily it didn’t contain anything gross.

Finally, on the road almost 2 1/2 hours later than I had hoped, with Nathan in the truck and Sarah and the dogs with me in the car, things started out noisy. Jasper, the younger dog, feels the need in the beginnings of any car trip, to warn away all creatures bovine or ursine. Let me remind you that we are driving through farm country, where you find cows and horses galore. That lends to a sometimes jarring bark of warning that comes just at the important moment of an NPR story or the best part of a song. Well, at least it keeps me alert.

Sarah, who had escaped a large portion of the packing and all of the final packing and cleaning, began the trip with a zillion questions:
“Did you pack my . . .?”
“Where is my . . . ?”
“Is my . . . in the car?”y

Of course, at this point I have no clue where anything is anymore. All I know is that the house was empty and everything we owned was either travelling with us, given to friends, or thrown away forever.

Eventually, I suggested Sarah ride in the truck with Nathan for a while, leaving me alone with the dogs.

Back to the dogs, last summer, when we moved from Durango to Okoboji for the summer theater, we decided to camp along the way. The dogs were great and seemed to enjoy it. I suggested perhaps we could do the same for this move. Nathan was only able to find one convenient campground along our route, which has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Why? We didn’t think about heat that is hovering in the upper 90s during the day and doesn’t really drop down until the wee hours of the night.  Last night, we didn’t even roll into our campground until around 11pm, which meant setting up a tent in the dark with two dogs anxious to sniff, explore, and otherwise investigate and one daughter who was denying her need for sleep.

We got the tent up and Sarah settled in, but the dogs were a different story. The tent was simply too hot, and they were not going to stay there. They wanted to be in the car, which was just as hot, but allowed for open windows on all sides. I thought they might be cooler outside, but didn’t want to leave them chained up all night barking at night creatures and the train which seemed to go by about 5000 times last night. So I ended up sleeping in the car, with the windows opened, slathered in bug spray and praying that I wouldn’t be a giant mosquito bite by morning. (Thankfully, I don’t think they were out last night. I only have a few itches.)  It took a long time for Lizzy to cool off enough to sleep, and throughout the night one or the other of them would decide something interesting was wandering by. Eventually it cooled off enough for me to sneak out and find my sleeping back (which was in the tent). All in all,  not the best night of  “camping” I’ve ever had in my life.

So why am I fighting so hard to keep these animals? Well, just as I would never really give up the daughter I love, the look of relief and adoration on both dogs faces as we finally allowed them in the car was a true reward. Lizzy, who decided she should ride shotgun since the seat was available, would look over at me with trust and love throughout the drive.

That’s why the family will stay together if I have any say.  And I do.

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Four More Feet Would Do It

Temperature bordering on 100 degrees.

Sun beaming down in full-fledged brightness.

Me, looking lovely in my stained tank top and ripped shorts, sitting  in the back of a sweltering 16′ moving truck, sweat streaming into eyes with stinging glee, as I unpack crate after crate.

Unpack?! Aren’t you supposed to be loading the truck?

Yes of course, but in typical moving day fashion for us (where things never go quite as planned) plans change.

A mere year ago, when we moved to Kansas, Nathan rented a 24 foot truck which was too big for our needs. So, with the goal of an easier trip across country, and knowing that we were planning on getting rid of things anyway, he decided to rent a smaller truck. But, the nearest company to rent trucks did not have a 20 footer, so we ended up with a 16 foot truck.

No problem, we thought, looking into the cavernous back. We can make it all fit. We set to the task, aided by only the occasional two helpers as nobody else was able to come, we created a jigsaw puzzle of immense proportions trying to squeeze something into every inch of space. At first it seemed that we would conquer the squeeze, with boxes piled in perfect patterns all the way up to the roof.

But alas, failure became inevitable. So, in an attempt to make more space available, I unpacked several crates of clothing, cramming them into dresser drawers and any random holes I could find on the truck. Unloading should be fun, with underwear and socks falling freely out of unexpected places.

We managed to get the crucial things in, and have a few gaps yet to fill as we decided that quitting at around 8 pm and indulging in a bottle of wine with a few friends was a wiser choice then beating a dead horse (or a stuffed truck). But, alas, we have to leave a few things behind. Mostly  shelves and a couple of dressers. 😦

On the upside, the packing is almost complete. We still have to clean up, and then we get on the road.

And at least we beat the heat, as today is supposed to be a lovely 104 degrees.

But I still wish we had four more feet, and about 10 more helping hands.

Brabble and Growl (100 Word Challenge)

A little silly poetry for my 100 Word Challenge for Grownups . . . although I guess this is more for kids. Enjoy.

My baby brother’s brabble
with his best friend Bobby,
caused me to foozle badly
doing my favorite hobby.

I dripped the paint all over.
I crumpled all the paper.
The glitter’s now on Rover,
and the room is now in danger.

Mother’s looking grumpy
Father’s looking frazzled
time to hide in my growlery
to avoid more of the brabble.

But hiding is horrendous
with all the noise out there
it makes me want to scream
and pull on someone’s hair.

The solution to the brabble 
between Bobby and my brother
is to send away the rabble
and my project I’ll recover.

The Value of the Arts, the Proof is in the Anecdote

Ahem!

Excuse me while I climb on my soapbox for a moment. But, while I am getting it ready, please pop over and read this article from the Tucson Weekly.

I’m ready. Are you?

Did you read the article? Well, if you did, good job. If you didn’t, it basically discusses a study conducted by one of my former (and fabulous) professors and another colleague, both of whom I admire for many different reasons. Their study looked at the long-lasting affects of drama and speech programming in high school on people’s lives, and to no surprise at all, they discovered lasting important effects.

To put it simply, the arts helps people become better people. The arts help people think, empathize, become public speakers, and grow in multiple ways.

And yet, what is the first thing the politicians want to cut rather than give up their cushy tax breaks? The arts.

We are headed, my friends, to a catastrophe with a society of people who cannot communicate in person, cannot empathize with each other, cannot think beyond the test or the rules, because the artist in them has been squashed at an early age.

Theater has made me the person I am today. That is obvious. But, even if I had chosen another career path, my experiences in theater as a child and a high school student would still have made me who I am. I learned to speak up. I learned to question and challenge. In some ways participation in theater has made me a stronger writer. I learned to express myself in new and wonderful ways. I saw people saved by theater, people who would have ended up going down a dark path in life.

I’d love to hear what effect  participation in arts/drama/speech programs had on your lives? Share the anecdotes to fight for the power of the arts.

Stepping down from my soapbox now. Thank you for listening.

Anything Goes at Brockton High School back in the day. I'm there!

Next Step–Create Work!

  • Job with benefits for Nathan . . . check!
  • House found that will allow the dogs . . . CHECK! (We finally got word yesterday, can I hear a Hallelujah!)

  • Truck rented . . . check.
  • House packed . . . um, check minus. We still have a few things to go.
  • Route planned, including fun meetings with friends from the past and friends from the blog . . . CHECK!! (Look for a blog post later this week after I meet the fabulous Kathy from Reinventing the Event Horizon)
  • Find job for Lisa so that we can actually afford this move . . . X not so much.

So now my search for work in the area begins in earnest (not that I haven’t already started, I have). Which of course makes me reflect on what I really want for a career or a job. What do I want to be when I grow up?

Everyone keeps telling me that I should be able to find work easily, but we all know that in some ways those are empty words nowadays. There are many talented people out of work. There are many greedy people controlling what jobs are available. I’ve written elsewhere about the additional challenges I seem to face as I try to find employment. My education and the diversity of work that I have done makes me both marketable and unmarketable. The fact that I am a woman over 40 adds to the challenges. The fact that I have a child adds to the challenges. All in all, I have lots to offer, but it isn’t that easy.

But, I do not intend to bitch and moan about the above reality today. If you note my title, I am thinking about how to “Create Work!” On September 6th, once I figure out the car situation (we really need two cars for this move, but can’t afford a second car at the moment) I have an appointment at the Career Development Office at my Alma mater to help me on my job search. That means, of course, that she is going to ask me difficult questions. Questions like:

  • What kind of job do you want?
  • What do you look for in an employer?
  • What are your strengths?
  • Etc.

If I could create my dream job, what would it be? I still don’t know the answer, but I do know a few things:

  • I love jobs with flexibility, both in time and approach.
  • I like to have variety in my working, where I take on short-term projects (like directing shows or drama workshops), fulfill them completely, and move onto the next.
  • I like meeting with, working with, and mentoring people who are passionate about what they do.
  • I would love to be able to make a living with words, whether it is writing words, putting words on a stage, or speaking words in front of other. “Words, words, words.” They are my fuel and my passion.
  • I want to be available for my daughter as she grows, but I don’t want to be a stay at home mom. That means I would like flexibility of hours.
  • I am good at organizing, managing, coordinating, and solving problems on my feet. I like those challenges as well.
  • I am passionate about the arts, education, giving a voice to all and following your bliss (although I’m still working on that one)

I probably could keep brainstorming this list, but the reality is that I don’t know what job fits those realities of who I am. So, perhaps it is time for me to Create the Work that I want to do.

The question then remains, where do I begin? Perhaps I have already begun.

Farewell is a Hard Word to Say

Sometimes I wish I had been one of those people who never left home, and was content staying in the town she grew up in living among family and friends who have known her forever.

But I’m not. Instead I have been a person who travels, gathering experiences and friends wherever I go.

Yet, I find it difficult to make friends, difficult to trust. Not because of my travelling ways but for numerous other reasons that are difficult to explain or understand. I am shy. I doubt my worthiness as a friend. I don’t feel cool enough.  I don’t want to intrude. All of these reasons and more make it challenging for me to become close to people.

So when I connect with people in a deep way, I don’t want to let them go. And yet, inevitably, the time comes for the next part of journey and I have to say goodbye to people I’ve only just begun to know. This time is particularly bittersweet, as our stay here has been so short.

While I know I must say goodbye, I hope that the connections I’ve made in this world continue to grow and strengthen. The people I’ve met along the way have all become part of my story and I hope that I am still part of theirs.

Farewell my friends from Independence. I will miss you all.

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A Little Bit of Nature’s Magic

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The Journey as Sestina

 I felt like writing poetry today, and decided to challenge myself by writing in a form called Sestina. I’ve only used this form once before, in a poem I wrote years ago for my sister called “A Sestina from the Heart”

MOVING INTO THE UNKNOWN

Box by box, item by item, I pack for our move
to a place both familiar and yet unknown
pursuing a life or perhaps a dream
of days filled with fulfilling work and challenges
met with a smile, a laugh, and joy
and evenings filled with stars, friends, and peace.

What will it take to find that peace?
Does the solution lie with this next move?
Or does the truth lie with inner joy
and acceptance that life is a journey into the unknown
with every day bringing new challenges
as we pursue our ever-changing dream?

What happens when we become unsure and dream-
less, tossing and turning at night in search of elusive peace?
Perhaps the search for a new dream becomes one of the challenges
which keeps a soul vibrant and constantly on the move
always  embracing the unexpected and the unknown
which will sometimes bring sadness but more often joy.

What if you find life is not filled with joy?
Or that everything you hope for is only a dream?
Then the next step becomes another unknown
followed by another, and another, and another until you find the peace-
ful place inside your heart which encourages a move
toward other dreams, other stories, other challenges.

Unless, of course, you wish for a life without challenges,
but for me that seems like a life without joy.
For me a successful challenge is a move
toward the next step of the journey and piece of the dream.
Knowing I can handle what comes gives me a sense of peace
even as I journey into the unknown.

I knowingly take steps toward the unknown
trusting that life will not give me any challenges
I cannot face. Knowing that even days not filled with peace,
can still be filled with joy.
As long as I keep working toward a dream
then nothing bad will happen on this, or any,  move.

While I don’t know what challenges this move
will bring, I believe that the unknown dream
is the one that will bring me peace and joy.

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