Welcome and an Invitation

Over the past several weeks I have had many people sign up to follow this blog.

I am truly honored by that. I am also intrigued, wondering which post brought you in and encouraged you to join.

However, I don’t blog over here much anymore. Many months ago I transitioned to my own self-hosted site: Lisa A. Kramer: Woman Wielding Words at http://www.lisaakramer.com/.

I still write about the same things (although in a slightly more organized fashion) but this site also includes pages for my portfolio and projects, as well as links to my writing.

I’d like to invite all of my new readers over there.

Recent posts include:

Flying Puppet

“For the Love of Learning” in which I have an epiphany about myself which may affect some of my choices in the future.

Snapshot_20131023 (6)

“Time to Stop Talking and Start Doing” in which I give myself a much-needed kick in the pants.

 

“The Thing About Bullying” where I reflect on yet another tragedy caused by bullying, the government, and other issues about society. I’ve written about bullying throughout this blog, as it is one of the topics I am passionate about. I will continue to explore it over there.

I hope to see some of you over there. And please, don’t be shy. Make comments. Tell me why you are there. Let me know a little bit about yourself, as one of the best things about the world of blogging is the connections we make. As a matter of fact, you may want to start with a slightly older post of mine “Getting to Know You” where we get a chance to learn a little bit more about each other especially about why we are in this world of blogging.

I’m looking forward to getting to know all of you.

See you there!

Lessons Learned and the People Who Teach Them

This week has been a challenge. I’m not just talking about writer’s block (which is there) but a darker struggle inside myself, as I question whether or not anything I do has value in this world. I’ve been dealing with:

  • students who seem to think attendance during the last weeks of school is optional
  • students who think that my assignments and the deadlines associated are optional
  • administrators who think that my opinions do not have weight or are not worthy of consideration
  • young students whose lives are so difficult outside of school that its hard to see if anything I am doing is reaching them
  • at least one class where the women in the class refuse to speak up and participate, they defer to the male voices a large percentage of the time. It drives me insane as someone who truly values mentoring young women.
  • a complete lack of faith in myself as director, writer, artist, teacher

But then, Siobhan Curious over at Classroom as Microcosm, posted this prompt as part of her Writing on Learning Exchange Series: she asks this provocative question “Who Taught You?”

That message made me think about what we learn when we least expect it, and who teaches us those important lessons. Sure, hopefully we have teachers throughout our educations that actually teach us something, but I am beginning to think that perhaps true learning comes to us in a different way. This isn’t to say that we have nothing to learn in a classroom environment . . . there’s plenty to learn through those formal methods, but sometimes we learn in unexpected ways, and sometimes we teach without knowing we are  teaching.

In my own life, lessons have come from so many unexpected places and people:

  • the fellow teacher from Australia who didn’t graduate from high school, used less than legal means to get hired to teach English in Japan (you were supposed to have a college degree) and showed me that a love of life and a passion for following your heart is in some ways more important than what you learn  from books. Too bad I didn’t fully absorb that lesson until very recently, despite the fact that she taught me it about 20 years ago.
  • the lessons I learned about prejudice, hate, and racism while working with a group of Roma children in Slovakia.
  • the lessons I’ve learned from the leaders of that Slovakia trip, about caring, sharing, traveling and living life with the understanding that there is more to the world than our small section of it.

    The leaders of Dramatic Adventure Theatre pitching in to make sure we were well fed.

    The leaders of Dramatic Adventure Theatre pitching in to make sure we were well fed.

  • There’s my current student who faces all kinds of challenges including incessant and debilitating migraines, being struck by lightning, and numerous friends dying from suicide or car accidents and things. She’s taken all this sadness, all these challenges, and given herself a goal to help others by becoming a school counselor and learning as much as she can about psychology. She is an inspiration.
  • The lesson I learned this morning from a woman I don’t know. Mia McKenzie’s blog post starts with the words “Hey White Liberals!” and challenges me to reflect on ingrained aspects of racism and injustice that we all need to think about, and somehow change.

This list could go on forever, and my blog is peppered with posts about people of all ages, races, cultures, levels of education who have taught me lessons. The point is that we never know when we will learn something that changes our lives. Nor we will ever truly know when we have taught something that has made a difference.

With that perspective, perhaps my life isn’t as empty as it feels at the moment, because there’s always something new to learn and the possibility that someone actually learns from you.

This is my greatest teacher.

This is my greatest teacher.

 

Deep Thoughts by Lisa Kramer

No, my deep thoughts will be nothing like Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy. There’s an entire website dedicated to his deep (dark, disturbing, and sometimes downright hilarious) thoughts which originated on Saturday Night Live.

Do you remember those?

No, my deep thoughts are the thoughts of a brain that has been working overtime during the past week, but can’t seem to work its way out of the mire of thinking.

To put it simply, I think too much. I cannot move forward into some other kinds of writing or into planning if I can’t empty my brain off all the thoughts competing for attention. If I had a pensieve like Dumbledore in Harry Potter I would be pulling strand out of strand of thoughts out of my head just to give my mind a rest. But I don’t have one, so I must resort to a more mundane way of doing things (or is that a more muggley way of doing things?). I don’t have a magic wand . . . I just have the magic of words.

I want to use that magic except that I’m afraid, because the truth is that some of my thoughts could piss people off. Does that mean I shouldn’t write them? Or is it finally time to get all of this off my chest?

What exactly am I afraid of?

I guess my fear is not being liked. I still struggle with  wanting to belong somewhere, and here on the blog I’ve found a group of friends even if they are only virtual ones. I’m also aware that anyone who has dreams of writing and selling a book, needs to build a fan base. But what if my deep thoughts are too radical? Too opinionated? Or simply too difficult  to follow?

Yup, my thoughts are that deep.

Then I look at one of my writing idols, Andra Watkins aka The Accidental Cootchie Mama, who does not run away from the dark words and thoughts that sometimes haunt her. She lets her characters have a voice through her words, even when those characters and thoughts come from a scary place. Her fiction never fails to chill, thrill, and make you think a little about the meaning of  life. Perhaps I need to allow my deep thoughts to come  out  in the form of fiction, or at least I need to give voice to them somehow.

Even if they make me afraid.

Does anyone want to hear the deep thoughts of Lisa Kramer or should my voice remain silent?

Sometimes deep thoughts come while sitting on a swing and staring at the sky.

Sometimes deep thoughts come while sitting on a swing and staring at the sky.

 

We Have to Start Somewhere

Sarah at my sister's apartment in WATERTOWN, MA.

Sarah at my sister’s apartment in WATERTOWN, MA.

I woke up this morning determined to start my pursuit of happiness. I took a hot bubble bath and felt one moment of PURE BLISS. I got up to write in my MORNING PAGES and everything fell apart . . .

Is it possible that happiness can only truly exist in brief moments?

I wasn’t looking  at technology. I didn’t have my phone near me. I was writing with a modern version of  a fountain pen. And yet, the news just creeped into my system as if all the negativity is just bouncing through the atmosphere, leaping from person to person in an all-consuming wave of negative energy.

A text from a friend who was worried about us.

MIT policeman shot.

Suspect dead in Watertown, MA.

The  city shut down and people told to stay home.

Deb and Norman ignoring the orders to stay at home and going to work.

It’s all too close to home.

It’s all too real. And yet . . . it also feels surreal.

If we, as humans, continue to send all of this negativity out into the world, in such intense waves that we know the news before it is even spoken, then we are doomed.

Change has to start somewhere, and it is not going to happen through governments or laws or politicians.

Change, true change to a world that values happiness and peace over money and hatred, will only come  if each and every individual strives toward putting that out in the world. We can’t let the moments of pure happiness be fleeting. The moments of pain should be the fleeting ones. The moments of hate.

We’ve got it all backwards.

We have to start somewhere. But first I must cry for a world that has lost its way. Perhaps hope can be found from the tears.

Finding beauty in sadness.

Finding beauty in sadness.

 

Celebrating Friendship

Today I celebrate #31 on my list of 45 things to celebrate about my life, by looking at the people in my life.

If the people you choose to spend time with–the friends you make along the way–reflect who you are as a person, then I can’t be too horrible. I’ve been honored to become friends with some truly amazing people throughout my lifetime, despite the protective wall I’ve put around myself because of poor friendship choices I made in the past. I guess we all learn as we go.

Anyway, a while back I started writing a series of posts trying to celebrate some of these amazing people, particularly the women, but for some reason I let that series fade into the oblivion of my blog. I’d like to refer you to those posts again:

Those posts just skim the surface of the incredible people I count among my friends. The list also includes:

  • Heidi, a talented and passionate high school English teacher in Durango, CO who I count among my best friends and miss very much. She taught me about what it means to fight through the hard times, to challenge yourself and the world around you.
  • Kristie, another talented and passionate high school English teacher. (I’d love to have Heidi and Kristie meet, they would love each other). I led you to her blog post a short time ago, and now I would like to lead you to another. Any young person would be lucky to have a teacher have as wonderful as she is. She has taught me about the power of passion and what it takes to create a life full of purpose and joy.
  • Jesse, a man who showed me that it is possible to pursue art, care passionately about the world, and do something to make a difference. You can find more about him in my posts about Slovakia and Dramatic Adventure Theatre.
  • Mary K, Jesse’s soul mate, my soul friend. She has taught me what it means to live with a full and caring heart.
  • Christen, who I met through Jesse and Mary K. She is one of those people who combine beauty (inside and out) with compassion, intelligence, talent and an amazing attitude toward life.
  • Mike. I only actually met Mike in person, once, at our farewell party when Nathan and I left Kansas.  Leaving him and his fabulous (new) wife Lily, is one of the big regrets I have about spending such a short time there. They are both talented and wonderful people who challenge me to question what I believe and think on a regular basis, in a really good way.
  • Barb, another brilliant women who has no fear about fighting passionately for what she believes in, especially when it comes to the rights of children to an education that suits their individual needs.
  • Amanda, an incredibly brilliant and talented woman who has taught me about pursuing dreams and setting goals for oneself, even when others say “No, you can’t do that.”
  • Beth. Someone who has known me for a long, long, long time. She has shown me how to stand up for family, and what it means to be a lioness of a mother.

My list could go on and on. With each name I write, I think of another. There are many now, that I count among my friends and yet I’ve never met in person. Those are the friends I’ve made through this blog. You can find stories of most of these people sprinkled throughout my blog. They are the people who’ve helped me become a better person. They are the people whose friendship makes me want to be a better person, or strive to achieve even in a small way the things I see them achieve each and every day.

So today, as part of my celebration, I celebrate them as well as all those friends whose names I missed, but whose lives have enriched my own. Thank you friends. I love you all.

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Who are the people in your life that you would like to celebrate? Who makes your life richer just because you’ve met them and count them as friends?

Ladies in Red, Purple and Every Other Color

I have a brilliant and talented friend named Kristie.

She was a year ahead of me in college. She and I lived in the same house, and had the same major (English Language & Literature).

She went on to get a masters from Harvard and then became a high school English teacher that I would love to have my daughter study with.

I went on to become . . . well, me.

Just a short time ago, Kristie made her first venture into the world of blogging (she blames me for this). Her first post at Schmidtty First Drafts reveals her wit and way with words. Her second post, entitled “Not Yet, Boba Fett” shares an honest look at the challenges many people, especially women, face as we enter that bizarre between time known as midlife. Her post inspired this post. I would love for you to pop over and read Kristie’s post before continuing with this one, but in case you don’t, she writes about a scene in Postcards from the Edge where Shirley Maclaine, dressed in a glittery red-outfit performs the song “I’m Still Here” at a party that was supposed to celebrate her daughter. Kristie writes:

“As I enter midlife, my disdain for Maclaine’s poorly timed and skewed self affirmation has tempered and transformed. In a culture that devalues those growing older, especially women, her declaration now seems about so much more than simply shouting “Look at me. I need attention right now.” It serves as a siren call, one beckoning us to look first at ourselves. In my midlife world this necessitates a temporal exploration. Who was I? Who am I? Who do I now want to be? That confident (though sometimes needy and sometimes selfish) bravura woman in red, where did she go? Because she existed.”

In some ways, I’ve always been the lady in red. Although, just as often I might be the lady in purple or hot pink or some other bright color that says “Look at me, I’m here.”

I wore red at a mini reunion with Kristie (with the white coat) a couple of years ago.

I wore red at a mini reunion with Kristie (with the white coat) a couple of years ago.

While this isn’t really about the color of my clothes, there is a pattern to how I wear clothing. When I most want to hide, or feel down on myself, I wear grays, blacks, neutrals. When I need a confidence boost, or when I have to make some kind of presentation, I’ll either where a professional looking black or the bright reds and purples of a woman who wants to be seen. This doesn’t mean I want or need to be the center of attention, its more like a statement that “I am here and what I say matters.”

Too often in my life I’ve felt invisible and unheard. Yet, the lady in red always wanted to come out. She wanted to sing to the world “I’m alive and full of fun and fabulous ideas!” So I added color to my wardrobe, and began to find ways to be heard,

Except when I wasn’t.

Now, like Kristie, I’m not willing to simply fade into the background as I enter midlife. I’m not willing to disappear as wrinkles and gray hair begin to make their presence known. I’m not willing to accept the status quo. I intend to create a path into the future filled with passion, ambition, adventure and possibility.

I plan to wear a lot of red (or purple, green, yellow,  and maybe even orange)  while doing it.

 

 

Reciprocity and Friendship

When I was in college I was starstruck.

Not by anybody famous, but by the “It” girls–the gorgeous, intelligent, popular ones who never really gave me much attention in high school. I followed them around with fairy dust in my eyes, amazed at their ability to attract men, be athletes, discuss intelligent topics, have fun, and still maintain incredibly high GPAs at a Seven Sister school. I relished every moment where they welcomed me in their orbit, never realizing that I served the role of kind, overweight, supportive friend/lackey who made them shine all the brighter because of how they were reflected in my eyes.

Can you find me in this house full of women?

However, even then I recognized that sometimes the relationship was uneven. A few of these women would come to me in times of strife; looking for a shoulder to cry on, a comforting word and sometimes even wise advice. They came to me when they were lonely and needed someone to fill up time, which I was always willing to do if I had a gap in my own (very busy) schedule.  However, when I struggled with my own issues and reached out in loneliness I got responses like”nobody wants to hang out with someone who is depressed all the time” or “I know it’s hard but let’s talk about me now” (of course I exaggerate, nobody used those exact words).

Needless to say, those friendships haven’t really survived the years. That time period also taught me to protect myself when it comes to friendship, which isn’t really a positive thing. I have a hard time making close friends sometimes, and I find it truly difficult to reach out to friends when I need help. I’m still always there for others, although I have begun to recognize when and how to set boundaries on my support.

I learned to depend on myself and to recognize my own strengths. I realized that part of the reason they came to me is that I have strong empathy and the ability to help. I pride myself in those skills, and often find myself in the position to help and encourage people who just need a non-judgmental ear. I admit that I love being able to help people.

And yet . . . there are some people in my life who still ask me to serve that role of supporting friend without reciprocating in a similar way. As I mentioned, I find it difficult to ask for help. But, in recent years, with a few people who have come to me when they’ve reached difficult challenges in their lives, I decided that maybe they could be there for m as well. Of course, not when they were in the middle of their dark struggles, but after I’d helped them through. I’d reach out a tentative hand, saying I could use some advice and support, only to be dismissed with “Not now” or “I know it’s hard but let’s talk about me.” 🙂

Do you see the trend?

Will I ever learn?

The answer to that is a resounding “YES!”

Yesterday my friend and creative partner from Kansas called me with exciting news. She also called to thank me for my (very small) role in helping her get to this exciting news.

Jackie and I inspired each other to create.

“I want to thank you by helping you with . . . ”

I don’t know if she realizes how much the reciprocity in our relationship means to me. We helped each other. She inspired me to create and get out of my own comfort zone. I’d like to think I challenged her to expand her own boundaries.

This is a friendship that will last through distance and time.

Last night one of my non-reciprocal friends reached out to me again, looking for a boost and support. I know that I won’t refuse. I’ll be there for her in her time of need but then . . .

I think I’ll reconnect with people who give as much as they receive.

Have you ever found yourself in an unbalanced relationship? What do you do?

In Defense of Letters

Poor, much maligned, “F.” So many people turned to my post yesterday thinking that it would about a much different “F” kind of day, only to find fun, fairies, and frolicking.

What did F ever do to deserve such a reputation? Is it because the lowest letter grade we can get is an F? or because, by simply attaching “-word” to follow a letter that letter becomes politicized at the very least and often turns into something negative? Our poor letters are taking a trampling in recent times.

  • The F-word or the F-bomb: Self-explanatory, but has definitely led to the corruption of poor innocent F
  • The L-word: a fabulous show, a shocking revelation, a word people are afraid to say to one another (love, silly–not lesbian). Neither of those words (love or lesbian) should be that terrifying or sinister, but . . .
  • The N-word: Now, granted, I don’t think this word should or needs to be said out loud, but I shared in a serious post in the past about how complex that word really is, because of its historical context as well as the way it is used at present.
  • Recently T-words and H-words have been trampled upon completely. I see you all scratching your head and thinking, what is she talking about? But, you have to admit that TRUTH has become twisted and HONESTY  has entered the realm of fantasy.
  • A poor little M-word has become a political hot-potato. As has an R-word, especially for women and G-words. (Translation: Marriage, Rights, and Gays)
  • The most recent attack on letters has, of course, been made on PBS, Oh, the humanity! (Or would that be Muppetity!)

I’m begging you people, stand up for the rights of letters to be well-rounded and represent all of their possible meanings rather than be defined by only one facet of their personalities. Let them embrace their multiple personalities and stand for the true power and variety of language.

Let F Stand for Freedom!

This Post is Brought to You By the Letter “F”

Friends, family, fun, fairies, fair, future possibilities, fantasy, fear of failure, frustration, and foolishness.

The letter F has had a starring role in my life this week.

It began with the Fairies. Monday was a school holiday in Massachusetts (you know the one that celebrates  the callousness of taking over other people’s homes and claiming it as our own).

We chose to celebrate by going on a little family adventure into the fantasy and wonder of fairies. We went to the Florence Griswold Museum in Old  Lyme, CT to see their Wee Fairy Village exhibit.

My favorite fairy house.

It had an uptree balcony where fairies could capture the sun and paint.

Of course, the fairies did not make an appearance in the wake of a hoard of loud, obnoxious, clumsy humans who had the tendency to touch things they shouldn’t, including trampling on some fabulous fairy landscapes and knocking over fences. Seems like the appropriate way to observe Columbus day, doesn’t it?

All sarcasm aside, the exhibit was lovely and some of my favorite fairy homes have inspired my family to build a fairy village in the rock garden behind the house. We haven’t started yet, but it could become a fabulous project. From the day I moved in, I thought it looked like a home for fairies and other wee creatures.

 

Don’t you think fairies would love to live here?

From Fairies we move onto fun with friends. On Wednesday I made another journey into Connecticut to pick up my friend Pam at the train station in Mystic. We had dinner at Mystic Pizza with Kristie, a fabulous college friend of mine. Okay, so Mystic Pizza doesn’t begin with “F” but the food was terrific, and the conversation was fantastic.

On Friday I spent the day at high school college fairs as an alumnae recruiter for Smith College. What an exhausting (although fun) way to spend the day. Kudos to those people who make a living doing that. It’s hard work trying to get overwhelmed college juniors and seniors to do more than give you a passing glance before running away with the look of scared rabbits as they try to avoid making choices about their future. Add to that the fact that I was fueled by caffeine to combat a night filled with insomnia, as well as  representing a women’s college, and the day became a combination of fun, frustrations, and fascinating observations. I did talk to about 8-10 students and meet an interesting woman, so at least it wasn’t an utter failure.

Speaking of failurefear of that has indeed been affecting my week as well (hence the insomnia). Its inevitable when pieces of my past meet (Pam is from one area of my life, Kristie from another) that I begin to reflect on the evil “coulda woulda shoulda’s” of my life, followed by a reflection on where I’ve failed and where the future leads. I’m a freak in this way, because I am very hard on myself, but I guess that goes with the territory of being a person who has always (perhaps foolishly) believed in the fantasy of living a life filled with adventure, good challenges,  fulfillment and fun.

But that leads me to another F that fell into my awareness last night. Have you ever read a job description that just felt like the perfect fit? I don’t want to jinx it, or go into too many details, but this position, which would be in a somewhat new field for me, has opened up my eyes and my dreams to future possibilities. Of course, I may not get it, but the least I can do is try. Failure here would be in not at least pursuing the possibility and seeing where it leads. I simply have to have a little faith in myself.

Today we will be following the fall by driving up to  Maine where we will leave Pam with her family after driving through fabulous fall foliage (I hope).

One of the fairies collected fall foliage for a fabulous artistic display.

I never realized how fantastic the letter F truly is.

May you all have a fabulous fall day full of fantastic, frolicking fun with friends and family, as well as fantabulous flowers, foliage, and future possibilities!

What was the guiding letter of your week?

 

A Summer-y and a New Beginning

I’ve been absent for a while now, on my many summer adventures. I could have written several blog posts about each adventure. but somehow blogging has taken a much lower priority in my life recently.

And I’m good with that.

I also haven’t really been pulling out my camera as much recently. I stopped trying to document every day with at least one photo, partially because each day was beginning to look the same, but also because I shifted my focus onto something else.

I’m good with that too.

Today I have a dual purpose in writing a post. The first is to share with you, in short form, some of the adventures of the summer (in other words a summary of my summer).

Part I: A Summer-y

  • June was consumed with single parenting as Nathan left to work at a summer theatre in Okoboji, IA.  The end of the school year adventures, as well as a dance recital took up a lot of time.

 

  • Sarah and I eventually flew out to join Nathan, despite a lack of enthusiasm on my part. (That’s a long story that I’m not going into at the moment)
  • The rest of the summer at Okoboji was complicated, with a few wonderful highlights

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  • I left before the final week of the summer theatre to have a few (much needed) adventures of my own. I visited my dear friend Amanda and attended some of the Minneapolis Fringe Festival before heading off to Lexington, KY for the American Alliance for Theatre and Education conference as well as an opportunity to spend time with fellow bloggers Kathy and Tori, as well as Kathy’s lovely partner Sara and Tori’s son Thomas. (For more about those adventures including pictures and crashing trees, click on the above link to Kathy’s blog).
  • The conference itself was full of complex emotions for me, as well as inspiration. I can’t seem to put all of this in words, but I left with new ideas about what I want to do with my life. Which leads to me to the second part of my post:

Part 2: A New Beginning

Have you ever noticed how sometimes things need to end in order for something new to begin? I’ve noticed for a while now that I have lost enthusiasm for blogging. Some of it was summer slacking, but some comes from the feeling that I am simply regurgitating material over and over again while achieving nothing. Although my readership has grown little by little, I no longer have a sense of purpose when it comes to this blog. In many ways, the blog has been a lifesaver for me, helping me get through some very difficult years. But it doesn’t seem to be working that way at the moment.

Although I am more settled now than for the past few years (I can’t tell you what a relief it was to come home from the summer theatre and not have to pack up and move again) life is still unknown for me. I am still reinventing myself; trying to create a career that I cannot define, trying to write something worth publishing, trying to live a fulfilling and creative life, trying to support my family while still being myself, and trying to find the balance between myself as individual and myself as wife and mother. This journey is the one I’ve been writing about but at the same time I have held back in some ways–out of insecurity, fear, respect, and other emotions.

I need a new beginning in many ways. And, my friends, for now that may mean I stop posting for a while. I am no longer sure what role blogging can and will play in my life. I need to make some plans, and stick to them, without the distraction of the blog. Because face it, blogs can be a distraction, as you pour your heart and words into reading, writing, and responding and time simply disappears.

So, for now, I believe I am on a short hiatus from regular posting. I will still read and comment, and I am always available for a chat or by e-mail. I may even post occasionally. But, I really believe that in order for me to begin again I need to pause for a moment in order to understand my path more clearly.

I leave you today with this image stolen borrowed from a friend’s posting on Facebook, as it sums up some of my current thinking:

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