Travel as Inspiration

It’s Saturday, but I am working on a post for Tuesday evening. Tomorrow Nathan, Sarah, and I are heading to New York City for a couple of days. We planned this trip around the Dramatic Adventure Theatre Travelogue. I want to share something on that day, so I thought I would write something new and have it post around the same time I would be sharing (if I don’t chicken out).  Here we go:

Whenever anyone asks me about the best part of my experience in Slovakia travelling with Dramatic Adventure Theatre, I find myself talking about our day with the Roma. The extreme disparity between the Slovak attitude toward these people, and the warmth of our reception still intrigues me. The eye-opening experience of walking through the mud and debris of the Roma settlement after seeing the beauty and elegance of other parts of the country will live in my memory for a long time. These thoughts have inspired me as I approach writing my first novel for adults, a novel which (I believe) will explore the perception of difference that connects and divides us all.

The moment in the middle of the drama workshop  where I realized that the power of imagination and theatre works in every culture, reinforced something I have always felt. The moment when I led the workshop and lived up to the challenge made me finally acknowledge, “Hey, I really do know my stuff.” Those moments helped me take steps back toward confidence.

Despite all that, the truth is that the day with the Roma was not the best part of the experience. It is simply the easiest part of the story to share. It is, in some ways, the most obvious point of inspiration. However, for me the best part began simply with the decision to go.

For many people, travel is a form of escape out of their real lives. For others, travel is about experiencing adventure and risking new things. For some it is about meeting new people and learning about other cultures. For me, it is all of those things and none of those things at the same time. I am not really an adventurous traveler. I prefer to walk in company then alone. I like the quieter moments of travel, as opposed to the wild night life or taking risks.

Isa by the fire. I could be found in the same position at another time.

But, while I may not be the most adventurous traveler, each journey I take fills an unexpressed need, because each time I travel in a place unfamiliar to me I also make an inner journey of self-discovery. I learn more about myself and the connections I have with others. I face the opposites inside myself; things I should be proud of and things I strive to change.

When I travel, I come closer to my truths.

What did I learn on this trip?

  • I learned that I have hidden reserves of strength that can help me achieve my goals as long as I move at my own pace.
  • I learned that there is no shame in moving at my own pace and occasionally admitting I need help.
  • I learned that I am a complete idiot when trying to function on a couple of hours of sleep, and you should never trust a tired Lisa with bus money. (So embarrassing!)
  • I learned that, despite the fact that I may not be living the life I expected, others see my life as one full of adventure and success.
  • I learned the value of being sensitive to others when you travel, or you might come off as an aggressive tourist no matter how good your intentions.
  • I learned the joy of creating bonds with fellow travelers who believe in making connections and art, not war.
  • I learned the value of quiet time in front of a fire, with nothing but yourself, your journal, and the crackle of the flames.
  • I learned that I am more than my roles in life.
  • I learned the joy of eating bryzna halusky on a snowy winter’s day.
  • I learned that laughter and silliness connects people as quickly as sharing intimate secrets.

Most of all, I learned that the best and most inspiring part of the journey is the journey itself.


Random Thoughts on a Sunday

I woke up on this Sunday morn
with thoughts floating  through my head
fleeting glimpses of ideas unborn
as well as terrors that kept me in bed.

In an attempt to get a grip
I took my pen and my empty book
with stabs and squiggles  my words stumbled and tripped
as ideas and images refused a closer look.

“Forget this!” I cried, and threw my pen.
“You ideas and words are meaningless.
You tease and tantalize and give me a yen
to find a goal that won’t cause distress!

The stories that I have inside
can stay inside for all I care.
If you insist on playing duck and hide
Then I simply choose not to care.”

But that’s a lie, as you all know
the words will continue to seek a voice
so I will follow where the words blow
knowing I have no other choice.

Writing Ahead, Planning for Adventures

I just wrote a long post. You won’t see it until Tuesday at 5pm.

I know many of you do this, writing posts ahead and scheduling when they will publish. It feels a little strange to me. I guess I use this blog as a place to reflect on the immediate emotions and ideas that pop into my head. Perhaps it means my writing suffers for it, as I don’t take time to refine. I know that I often go back and fix horrible grammatical errors or really poor wording. But usually my posts just go, pouring out of me in the instant I feel like writing them.

Maybe that’s why my blog only grows at a snail’s pace rather than a cheetah’s.

English: Common variety snail Comment by F. We...

Image via Wikipedia

Well, anyway, I am holding back on this post because it is something I have written to share at Dramatic Adventure Theatre’s Travelogue on Tuesday evening. I plan to read it at this open mike event, if I don’t chicken out. So I’ve timed the post to publish at the same time the event begins. I’m letting you know  now, in case any of my reader’s are in New York City and feel like checking the event out. It’s free.

Gulp! I just invited more strangers. Eek!

Anyway, as I wrote and prepared, my mind took its usual journey into self-doubt.  I questioned whether or not it was good enough. Is any of my writing good enough? I am sharing an essay, should I be sharing poetry? Maybe I shouldn’t share a single thing?

But what is this blog if not a place for sharing–even if some of my work does not live up to my ideals? And why did I take the trip to Slovakia if I am unwilling to explore and follow wherever that journey leaves?

So tomorrow evening my family and I will take a little trip together. First we head to Connecticut to stay with a friend for the evening. Then we take a train to New York City. I am excited for Sarah’s first trip to NYC. She’s excited too, even though it means missing a few days of school.

We don’t really have specific sight-seeing plans for New York. Maybe we will go

The Empire State Building.

Image via Wikipedia

to the Empire State Building. Maybe we will end up somewhere else. We do want to go to the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image, because we are a family of puppet lovers.

While I don’t plan on bringing my computer, I think I will be doing a lot of writing on this trip. We will only be away until Wednesday but the possibilities are endless. Meanwhile, to pre-post or not to post, that is the question.

We shall see what inspiration hits.

Flattery or Fraud?


writing (Photo credit: found_drama)

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” Charles Caleb Colton

Yesterday I began my post like this: “Yesterday. Worcester Art Museum.” I realized as I was typing it that I was borrowing the style of Mark at the Idiot Speaketh who often begins posts in a similar manner.

While I feel that I have my own style, I often change it up a bit, inspired by the fabulous writers I read here each day or by something I am reading. My style also often differs depending on what I’m writing. I can write an academic tome using appropriate terminology and ethos, utilizing current trends in jargon and theory. (Perhaps that sentence wasn’t the most titillating example of academic verbiage, but I’m running on about 4 hours of sleep). I can write professional sounding requests and letters. I can write in the voice of the young. I sometimes channel Dr. Seuss. I am still learning, however, and still trying to master the art of description and metaphorical wordplay. Sometimes I attempt to write in the style of someone else I admire, because those attempts help me strengthen my own voice.

To me that is imitation at its sincerest.

However, there is a fine line between imitation and plagiarism. Well, it’s not really that fine. But, something happened that made me wonder, is plagiarism simply another form of flattery?

My regular readers should know that I usually participate in the 100 Word Challenge for adults. I find myself playing with voice and style with those challenges, because to me the variety helps me learn and grow with the challenge. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a poem that was written in a child’s voice, because there was supposed to be crossover between the children’s 100 word challenge and the adult. I enjoyed writing that piece and was pretty proud of it.

Yesterday, I visited the children’s challenge page, to find a featured poem (each week a few of the kid’s entries are featured to help encourage more writing). As I started reading, I thought to myself This sounds strangely familiar.

Well, it should. It was my poem with a few words changed.

Now, I’m not writing this to embarrass the student who did it, or attack anyone. I am writing out of sadness, as I see plagiarism too often in a world with instant access to so much material. I’m also, oddly enough, feeling flattered. I mean, really, the idea that this boy thought the poem was strong enough to be his voice is kind of cool. 😉

So has plagiarism become the sincerest form of flattery?

The question remains how to handle the problem. If it was a college student, I’d call him on it. However, the whole concept behind these challenges is encouraging students to write and read and express themselves. I don’t want to discourage this child from trying again. It is not really my decision what happens from here, but is something worth thinking about.

Too many students nowadays attempt to take short cuts. I’m not sure the reasons why. Perhaps the pressure we put on them is too great. Perhaps they are lazy. Perhaps the access to any information you want has made the need to think and challenge yourself passé.

Yesterday I worried about posting a photograph from an artist, and made sure I attributed it to him. Today I find myself wondering, where are the lines between borrowing and stealing?




Inspiration from the Photography of Ron Rosenstock

Yesterday. Worcester Art Museum.

Sarah walked from art piece to art piece, carrying her sketch pad and a pencil. She jotted down notes. Usually  just the name of the piece, sometimes words. I’m not really sure. I found myself torn between looking at the art and watching Sarah’s reactions to certain pieces..

We wandered from gallery to gallery until we entered a magical display that mesmerized Sarah from the moment she walked in.

Hymn to the Earth: Photographs by Ron Rosenstock is an exhibition full of vibrancy, magic, light and atmosphere, all in tints of black and white. Each image was more intricate and beautiful than the rest, and each inspired a snippet of story.  Of course, because of copyright issues, I’m not allowed to post those images here, however if you click on the above link it will bring you to the Worcester Art Museum page including an interview with the photographer about his work.

I can’t resist including at least one image here. So I will borrow one from his own website and hope that I am forgiven, as it is only intended to praise and lead others to him.

Each of us were drawn to different images. My favorite is called Stone Circle at Sheefrey, County Mayo, Ireland. Trees surround a crumbling stone circle, leaves pouring over its edges. Somehow he caught the atmosphere at its most magical. I can almost hear the faerie folk singing as their power builds. To me, it is the circle of the Storyteller, on the verge of the forest. It is the home of a story I am slowly starting to tell.

I bought a card a pinned it over my desk.

Sarah fell in love with an image called Muckross Abbey, Coounty Kerry, Ireland. In it you look through an arched stone doorway, past arched columned windows through which the sun cast its glow. At the end of the hall is a small, black, rectangular door. When Sarah and I looked at it, I said, “I can almost sense a ghost coming through . . . I can sense the history.”

I splurged and bought the book about this exhibition.  Each image is paired with haiku’s written by Gabriel Rosenstock (no relation). Here is poem opposite Muckross Abbey:

“Muttering in Latin
on his daily rounds
the abbey ghost”

I feel the chills of inspiration and creativity.

Ron Rosenstock was in the gallery as we wandered through the exhibition, but Sarah was too shy to say anything. I was too much in awe and caught up in the magic of creative possibility. I found myself walking in story.

We wandered through the rest of the museum, and (as I mentioned yesterday) I tended to be drawn to the feminine divine. I was also fascinated by the miniatures, perfectly painted portraits of women.

Sarah got excited by the display of Paul Revere’s creations. She just learned about him in school and somehow seeing something crafted by him made the history more real. It was fun to see her excitement.

Wandering through the modern art exhibit, a certain famous painting of a can of soup, led to a discussion about whether or not something was art, as well as interpretations of the images we saw.

That too, was fun, but I will treasure always the image of Sarah sitting in front of a mystical photograph of three small waterfalls and writing this:

Water rushing through the wind
Water falling in the river
go with the flow.

 It doesn’t get better than that.

Fighting Frustration and Fatigue

Yesterday I wrote a post from passion. I was proud of that post.  Now, I knew not expect to be Freshly Pressed, as I didn’t have any images that came from me, and I simply don’t make the criteria or the cut for whatever reason. But, I admit, to feeling a little deflated today. I was hoping for something more.  More reaction. More comment. Disagreements or anger even. While it instigated a couple of responses, in particular this wonderful post at Life of Jamie, I feel like my post was a whisper when I was hoping for a scream

We need more screams!

Today I was sent this petition which supports my theory that they are afraid of our voices. If “they” do not let us be heard, then their power is not threatened.

I fear “they” will win, because nothing seems to break the silence.

I admit to feeling frustrated. My second anniversary of this blog approaches, and, while I recognize that I have come far, I still feel sometimes that my voice is faint. I especially feel that when I write from passion and feel like in the end I accomplish nothing.

I took Sarah to the museum today, hoping to find inspiration to combat this overwhelming fatigue. I found myself looking for Goddess images–looking for the feminine divine, where women’s voices meant something and represented strength.

However, my search does not defeat the fatigue, despite finding some images that spoke to me. I forced myself to sit down and write something, anything to break through. Yet, as I search for the images to share, two things happen. First I find an image to remind me of why I should write and why I should fight (I include it amid the goddesses . . . guess which one it is). The second is this short but sweet little post announcing the birth of a girl. Welcome BabyHab, you are worth fighting for.

I Have Something to Say!!!

Warning! This is a statement about politics, religion, female issues and sex! Read at your own risk!

I am a woman, and my voice deserves to be heard.

Do you believe women have a right to be heard? Then why aren’t there more women out there screaming about what is happening in our society?

Where are modern day feminists? Being feminist is not a bad word. It means that you believe that people are people no matter whether they have a penis or breasts.

I am a feminist. I believe that women can do anything men can do, except for a few limitations based on biology. We don’t grow as big as men. We aren’t quite as strong. But what we lack in physical strength we make up for in intelligence, talent, stubbornness, and the ability to withstand pain.

So why are so many people trying to push us down? And, more importantly, why are we letting them?

I don’t care whether or not you are pro-choice or anti-abortion. I don’t care whether you are Republican, Democrat or something else. The issues have moved beyond that. This is about power. It is about control.

Control our bodies, control our ability to make decisions about when and how we have children, limit our access to justice when we are raped, control our choices about whether or not we work–and you have made us second-class citizens. Again.

This is what some men want. Why? Because they are afraid of our power. What would happen if women joined together in true feminine power to stand up for what is right? For justice, equality, kindness and sensitivity.

I’ll tell you what would happen, if we can learn to support each other as women rather than tear each other apart because of difference:  the world would become a better place, and men would lose control.

It’s all about power. It’s all about control.

Perhaps you believe that women should be subservient to men, or that the Bible or some other religious tome tells you to behave certain ways or believe certain things. You have a right to your beliefs, but don’t I have a right to mine? This country was made (after destroying the Native American Peoples) because groups of people from all over the world wanted the right to believe as they pleased. What happened to that idea?

Perhaps these books came from a religious source, a God, but they were written down by MEN. The ideas, the rules, the practices were all interpreted by men. The possibility of misinterpretation or intentional misinterpretation can’t be ignored.

Doesn’t that give us something to think about?

Believe what you want. That’s fine. But I want more for my daughter. I want her to grow up knowing that she has a voice in our society, and that she has control of her body. True story, I have been on birth control since I was 16 years old. Go ahead, call me a slut, but here’s my reality– I did not lose my virginity until I was 24 years old. Then why was I on birth control? Because my periods were debilitating, and I could not function without regulating them.

Lose access to birth control, and you are going to see a lot more bitchy women out there.

I also lost a child. I blamed myself because I had started taking an anti-depressant that was not for pregnant women before I knew I was pregnant.  I was crushed! I was devastated. Yet, some of the laws being pushed today would have made that time of my life even worse, because I could have been accused of murder. Miscarriages happen all the time, but if some of the laws pass, women who cannot prove it was accidental can be charged with murder.

Yet, a man who rapes a woman and impregnates her may get off, because this society often blames the victim.

This is no longer about who is the President, or who controls the budget or any of the other divisive party issues out there. This is about freedom and it is personal.

It’s time ladies and gentleman, to stand up for equality for ALL. Women, men, gay, lesbian, transgender, black, white, hispanic, mixed race. It doesn’t matter. We can no longer sit by quietly and let a few pompous, wealthy, arrogant white men clutch to their power and their own fears while making everyone else a second class citizen.

We seem to be lacking in the leadership of women like Gloria Steinem and others who led the feminist revolution. But, we have something they did not, we have the power of social networking. Revolutions have begun because of Facebook and Twitter, isn’t it time for us to stand up against these vicious attacks?

Stand together as women. Stand together with us, men who recognize that women are partners. Don’t let political parties and religion push us back into subservience.

This is my rallying call! If you support it, pass it on or write your own.

I am a woman, and I demand to be heard.

Here are some other posts you should read . . .

Caitlin Kelly at Broadside wrote this post which inspired me to write out my own frustration.

This post, from a (former) Republican, lists many of the attacks being made against women, and why that is so problematic.

Reading (100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups)

Banana on Pancake

Image via Wikipedia

This week the challenge prompt is “. . . the flip side . . . “. I guess this comes from Shrove Tuesday which is also known as Pancake Day, where the tradition is to eat pancakes before lent begins. Those crazy Brits, who knew? 😉

Anyway . . . I didn’t write about pancakes.  But somebody might have, so go check out the other entries at Julia’s Place.


“Wait,” Judy said. “I’m not sure I want to see that final card.”

Sam hesitated and looked up, to see the fear in Judy’s eyes. “Has my reading been wrong so far?” She asked.

“No, it’s been too right, too close to home.” Judy said. “I didn’t think this was real, but I didn’t know where else to turn. You’ve proven me wrong. What if this card shows death?”

Sam took Judy’s trembling hands into her own warm, comforting ones.

“Death simply means endings followed by new beginnings—like a Phoenix in the flame. You won’t know unless you look.”

Seeking the Truth Inside Yourself

“She is without any need to please, any need to act, or look, or be a certain way. It’s as if she’s done with that, and rests now in the solid center of herself, having arrived at her own condensed truth. She is herself. And that is all.” (Sue Monk Kidd, Ann Kidd Traveling with Pomegranates)

“As far as I’m concerned, people who think they fear failure have got it wrong. They really fear success. If you truly feared failure, you’d be very successful.” (Barbara Sher, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What it Was.)

The journey I began when I first started writing this blog has taken me in surprising directions, and I am still travelling.  I’m not just talking about the physical realities of my journey, with moves from Colorado to Kansas to Massachusetts including stops and pauses along the way: Okoboji, IA; Seattle, WA; Lexington, KY; Slovakia. These, of course, are part of my journey, but my inner journey has traversed millions and millions of miles and I am only beginning to discover what it all means.

Yesterday, as I was spending a relaxing day hanging out with Sarah in a bookstore, I found myself journaling in response to a prompt in Barbara Sher’s book. While I haven’t done all the activities she suggests, I have been reading a lot of books like her in the hopes that I could clarify for myself what goals and dreams I truly want to embrace. As I wrote in my journal yesterday, I came one step closer to my truth, even though I can’t label it with a traditional sounding career name.

Actually, I’m not even sure I’m ready to put this into words. So instead I will fill today’s post with a few images that, added all together, somehow represent the me that I am on my way to becoming.

Black Virgin of Rocamadour

Goddess Grants the Rebirth of Japan

The journey has just begun, where will it lead?

The Anatomy of Others

“They are like animals.”

“They smell bad.”

“They are all thieves. Be careful.”

“They just want to take from us, and they are lazy. They do not want to work.”

These are phrases from my past, but they are also phrases from my present. They bring back unlived memories of people being pushed into cattle cars, torn away from their homelands, herded into showers, and ultimately destroyed. They are the words of rape and destruction, of death and abuse, of war.

They were the words used to describe the Roma as we traveled through Slovakia.

I woke up this morning in a moment of writer’s epiphany. While I am no closer to clearly explaining what story I wish to write, what novel I will commit to living and breathing for as long as it takes to finish, I have recognized something important. Every story that I think of involves being different, being other, and learning to look beyond those differences to our common bonds.

I see no difference here. Do you?

I have grown up feeling like the Other. I have always been defined by the things that made me different: my intelligence (which separated me from my peers in school); my religion (as there were only a few other Jews in the classroom and I got to “skip” school on Jewish holidays); my height (always in the front of the line, always working harder to keep up); my financial status (I wasn’t wealthy enough for the other kids in Hebrew School, and when I went to college I actually had to work my way through); my race (live in Japan or Hawaii for even a short time, and suddenly you realize that you will always be gaijin or haole); even my pursuit of theatre and the arts as a career. I feel separate and different, not better or worse, but simply unable to be fully understood because I am OTHER.

I’m sure everyone can define their Other-ness, because in reality the one thing we have in common is that everybody is different. Everybody is Other.

Yet, this attitude of Us and Them or defining ourselves by our groups is the ultimate failure of humankind. Look at our world today. We fight wars of Otherness. In the United States, which was built on the premise of letting people live as they wished in all their glorious difference, certain factions of the government are trying to reestablish the Otherness of men and women and create a world where men have all the control and all the power.

After all, defining Others is really about Power.

Think about it. In Slovakia the hatred between the Roma and the Slovaks has existed for hundreds of years. They all eat. They all drink. They all dream. They all love, hate, dance, sing, smile, laugh, hurt cry.

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that.

The Merchant Of Venice Act 3, scene 1, 58–68

Polski: Kopia zaginionego obrazu Maurycego Got...

Image via Wikipedia

Replace the “Jew” with this speech with anyone from any group (Roma, Muslim, Black, Gay, etc. etc. etc.) and the words ring true throughout all time. That’s why Shakespeare was the master.

The Roma choose to live a life that is different, where their roots and values lie in a different family structure and an old tradition of wandering. While they really are not longer wanderers, their different perspective on life threatens the norm. Anything that threaten’s the perception of what  a majority sees as normal causes a defensive attitude, because after all in a world that sees things as black and white, there can only be one right. If we allow people to live differently, it threatens our power.

So the world becomes a constant battle between Us and Them.

What happens, though, if we recognize that we cannot survive without difference? What happens if we recognize that our differences make the world a fabulous, vibrant place? What happens if we recognize that grasping for power while destroying everything we don’t like will ultimately lead to our own destruction? Eventually, if someone controls difference completely, someone else will come along with a new idea of what is “normal” and what is good. The battle against the Other will never end.

So, whatever I write, I will be writing to celebrate difference and encouraging a life where being Other is how we live and is truly wonderful.

Vive la différence!

A little later. . .

 Beth over at It’s Just Life wrote a post called “Gratitude Dance’ today that included a YouTube video that really fits with my thoughts today. I can’t seem to get it onto this post, so please go visit Beth and watch the video.

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