True Confessions of a Fearful Artist

Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum.

I sit in a coffee shop feeling my heart beat as I try to find a sense of calm. In a little over an hour I will be at an interview for a directing job. Just a small college show, but my fears overwhelm me and I feel panic building.

What am I afraid of?

Once upon a time I believed I would be a famous director.  I thought I had the talent and vision to create powerful and meaningful theatrical experiences for even novice theatre-goers. Or, at least that’s what I tricked myself into thinking.

The truth is that my doubts ate away at me. That little inner critic took control and won. I didn’t have the courage to pursue my dream fully and I let the nay-sayers and the cruel manipulators who wanted to keep themselves on top push me down. I lost faith in my ability. I lost faith in my talent and knowledge. I lost faith in myself.

I still got directing jobs, though.  Usually through somebody else’s recommendation. Actually, that’s how I get most of my jobs of any type, through a connection or a recommendation–rarely through an actual interview?

What does that say about me?

Since moving back to Massachusetts, I’ve seen plenty of directing jobs, although most of them were near Boston. I used the hour drive (without traffic) as an excuse not to apply. You know . . . rehearsals would start around 6 or so which means I would have to leave by 4:30 at the latest to be sure I’d get there and wouldn’t have any time to see Sarah, etc. etc. etc.

But really what held me back from applying was fear.

Then this job came up, and the excuse didn’t stand. This University is 15 minutes from my house, without traffic. The play is quirky and interesting, written by a woman and with strong female characters. It relies heavily on movement, music, and, I believe light. In other words, all the things I love.

No excuses. I had to apply. I didn’t even let myself stop and think. I sent in my resume as soon as I saw the ad, even before I’d read the play. If I had procrastinated, the inner critic would have found another excuse for me to run away and hide in fear.

Which brings me to this moment of nervous tension building.

But here’s the interesting thing, since I started writing this post, suddenly my fears are beginning to calm. It’s as if words are my meditation. By allowing myself to blog, to share my words in a public sphere, I have slowly learned to be brave about all my artistic endeavors. The inner critic doesn’t have as much control anymore.

I can, and will, go into this interview knowing that they want me to succeed. They want to find the director who will be the best match for this project.  I believe that could be me, but if for some reason they disagree that isn’t a reflection of myself or my talent.

Sometimes what it really comes down to is personalities.

I no longer have the dream of becoming a famous director. I have other dreams trying to make themselves knows–writing and publishing novels; developing theatre for social change projects; becoming a successful arts advocate in some way; and other dreams that I have yet to put into words. Directing is a part of my life that I’m not willing to give up completely, but it is not the guiding light to my creative soul. Still, I think I need to confront this fear in order to continue to grow into the person I want to be.

Wish me luck.

What are you afraid of as an artist? What do you do to confront those fears?






New Thoughts on Being Alone

Remember how about a month ago I wrote about how weird it was to be completely alone in the house for an entire weekend--no dogs, no child, no husband? Well, today I have done a total flip and am yearning for some complete, 100% alone time.

I woke up early this morning, even though my body was still aching for sleep. But, when the sun rises, the thoughts in my brain start stirring, at least to some extent. Unwilling to completely engage with the day, and still feeling a little disconnected, I decided to spend a quiet morning reading before I wrote in my Morning Pages and started the day for real. Nathan left to get breakfast, and I chose to stay back and be anti-social. The dogs started to hassle me as soon as he left.

A short time later, after Nathan had left breakfast for Sarah and made the 20 second trek to work, Sarah stumbled out of bed and immediately starting whining at me because she had misplaced blankie. Have I ever described blankie to you? Once upon a time it was a gray flannel shirt of Nathan’s that somehow ended up in Sarah’s hands at some point when she was just a baby. It became the attachment that could never be left behind, and now is a ripped and torn, but well-loved piece of extra soft fabric that dimly reflects its past as a shirt.

In this picture, Nathan is wearing the shirt when in was still actually a shirt. It may have been that day that it became “Blankie.”

In this picture taken the following year (when Sarah was 2 and 3/4) you can see Blankie scrunched in Sarah’s hands just behind Nathan’s head.

Anyway, as any “good” Mom would do this morning, I told Sarah to look all around her room for blankie, including picking things up. When that failed, and the moans and groans of agony started, I solved the mystery after recalling a bizarre experience from the middle of the night last night–one that could have been a dream, except for the evidence from blankie. See, I came out at some point to go to the bathroom only to be startled by the silent and spectral image of Sarah who nearly freaked me out by appearing in the darkness.

“What are you doing Sarah?”

“I’m going to the park.”

“What? You can’t go to the park now.”

“I’m catching fireflies.”

“Go back to bed, Sarah.”

She walked over to the table holding Nathan’s computer and sat down, placing her hand on the mouse.

“Have you been playing computer games?” (The lights of the computer were blinking, but the screen wasn’t on, I was just really tired.)


“It’s too late to play computer games. Go to bed Sarah.”

“Will you help me?”

“Go to bed!”

She wandered into her room and crawled into bed.

Complete silence in a moment, as I stumbled back to my bed.

I would have forgotten about it, except that I discovered the missing blankie on the chair. She even brought her music player and headphones out. She doesn’t remember a thing.

That mystery solved, I started reading again, only to be interrupted every line or so by a random question about sleepwalking from Sarah, or a random thought about something from Sarah.

“Sarah, I’m trying to read!”

A few moment passes, and another thought bursts out.

“Sarah, your breakfast is in the refrigerator. Please eat while I read.”

“I’m not hungry. But I’ll read, too.” New questions a few minutes later, about words. Questions that I always want to answer with “look it up” as her dictionary was 3 feet away.

“Sarah, I’m heading back to the bedroom so I can read undisturbed.”


A few minutes pass. Perhaps a page or so. The dogs follow me back there and start their loud staring, hoping to get something if I could only read their minds. Then Sarah comes back, with a new thing she just has to tell me at that moment.

This happened several times.

“Sarah, I came back here to read in peace. Please do something!” She finally started eating and playing a computer game.

I did manage to finish the book and was finally ready to write in my Morning Pages, but  the chance of me accomplishing that while being tracked by 10 legs, 6 eyes, 2 tails, and one chattering mouth was pretty low.

“Sarah, I am going to go somewhere and I am not going to tell you where. I will have my phone, but you cannot follow me.”

“My guess is a coffee shop.”

“No, I am staying on the lot, but you cannot follow me. I need to be completely alone.”

“Okay, I’m going to the green room. Are we going swimming this morning?”

“Yes, but first I need to be completely alone.”

I found a place underneath the gazebo at the arts center next door, and I wrote in my Morning Pages. My phone buzzed, a text from the people who were supposed to swim with us.  “We’ll be ready in 15 minutes.”

“I’m not ready. Give me 1/2 hour.”

Finding a place to be alone at this bustling theatre is a challenge. Even when you hide away in your cabin, the worlds seems full of eyes and ears and voices.  The 30 minutes or so this morning made me realize how valuable alone time really is.

It is, actually, priceless.





I Miss Making Magic

I found myself sitting in the theater earlier, watching the bustle on stage–the carpenters added some finishing touches, the electricians fixed lights and added practicals, the props person decorated the set–and I found tears building behind my eyes and sneaking a trail down my cheeks.

A scene from GETTING OUT, a play I directed years ago when the magic was strong.

I miss making the magic of theatre. I have always loved tech. I love watching the disparate elements of a show, with all the work behind them, coming together to make the magical whole that the audience sees. But lately, between politics and lack of support the competition and the frustration, I’ve lost some of that joy. I miss working on a challenging project and creating a supportive company of cast and technicians who all feel the joy and the love of the work.

The opening scene of CLOUD 9, another play I loved directing, especially because it pushed buttons and promoted discussion.

I am surrounded by people doing that right now, but I am disconnected and so the sadness builds.

I yearn for a project that I truly believe in, and for the feeling of creating something that has meaning and touches audience and participants in some way.

Not a performance, but a powerful moment of theatre and connection, with me leading activities with the Roma.

As confused as I have been lately, my tears today have shown me that I am not yet done with theatre, I just have to find a new way to make it my home.

A Weekend of Powerful Arts

I was only there for about 41 hours.

In New York City, 41 hours can be packed with adventure, learning, fun, emotions, and everything in between.  In the next few posts I will share some of the craziness and fabulousity (I like creating words) of this adventure. Of course, I must begin with one of my main reasons for this trip at this particular time. If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that one of the issues I am most passionate about is

The Power and Importance of the Arts!!!!

This short venture into the Big Apple, while also an excuse for fun with friends, was really based on this premise. Three separate experiences validated and reinforced this for me in interesting ways.

Part I

Je Laisse L’Amour Entrer:
Even Zombies Need Art

On Friday night I saw this devised theatre piece performed by undergraduate students from the Playwrights Horizons Theater School at NYU, Tisch School of the Arts.

Devised theatre, as defined by the (ahem) always trustworthy source of Wikipedia, is:

Devised theatre (also called collaborative creation, particularly in the United States [1]) is a form of theatre where the script originates not from a writer or writers, but from collaborative, usually improvisatory, work by a group of people (usually, but not necessarily, the performers).”

I have a love/hate relationship with devised theatre. I love working on it, and when it is good it is really really good. Sometimes I find it so esoteric and confusing that I don’t enjoy it. This wasn’t one of those times.

The program explains that Je Laisse L’Amour Entrer (I Let Love in) was “Based on the Ballet La Sylphide & The Music of Nick Cave and Rob Zombie.” The text also includes William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, Helen Fisther, Robert Sternberg, and Wikipedia. In other words it was a mash-up of classic complicated ballet love story with hard and classical rock, with classic texts, all mixed in with a little zombie horror. Complicated, right?

In reality, it was a blast.

At first I wasn’t sure. My biggest complaint about this production was that they painted the entire theatre yellow (which is always a complex color on the stage) then dressed the ensemble cast in costumes that matched the yellow, and lit it with yellow light. This meant that sometimes the performers bodies disappeared in a performance that relied heavily on movement and the incredible physicality of the performers. However, eventually I was able to let that go for the pure fun of the evening, especially after the zombie lover crashed out of a cardboard box that had been sitting on the stage since before the audience entered the theatre. The production celebrated love, questioned purpose, pointed out hypocrisy, and glorified the pure joy of living life with love and passion (even when you fall in love with a zombie).

"Our Zombie in Her Tu-Tu, Photo Courtesy of Joanna Li " borrowed from a blog post by Southerner in the City.

What really blew me away about this production was the quality of performances by these students and the commitment of each performer to create a highly energized and engaging show.  There wasn’t a weak link in the entire ensemble. It was fun, terrifying, full of surprises and a delight to watch.

Part II

Art and Culture in Public Service:
The Important Truths

The main reason for this trip was to be a guest lecturer in my friend Christen’s class at Rutgers called Art and Culture in Public Service. Christen wanted me to share how theatre in education can be used to do more than simply create the next generation of struggling theatre artists, but teach about other aspects of life and of what it means to live in our society. The class is 3 hours long on a Saturday, and Christen asked me to prepare about an hours worth of presentation. Before that, I sat in and listened to the class discussion about arts and politics, as well as two presentations–one about the KONY video (which was a wrap up of a presentation from last week) and one about Arts in Education. As I observed, I realized a few things:

  • Christen is an AMAZING teacher
  • This group of students was eloquent, passionate, and committed to making the world a better place
  • I miss teaching classes which make real world connections between theory, history, and life to more mature students
  • Art truly is the most valuable tool to make a difference
  • There was no way I would have time to do the full lesson I had planned because this group of students loved to discuss, debate, and question

When it came to my turn, with less than an hour to go, I had to scrap everything but I was okay with that. I decided to share with them some activities that would allow them to explore their discussion in a theatrical way, because that is really what theatre in education is all about. It is about using arts as a tool to further discussion. I pointed out to them how theatre really combines all art forms, so it is perhaps the most powerful tool that can be used in this way. I borrowed from Augusto Boal and had them sculpt each other into images that represented certain words and issues. Some hesitated at first but then they got into the freedom and creativity with powerful results.  Here are some images we explored:



Pretty self explanatory image of racism.


Women's Rights or the War on Women

Need I say more about why this experience was so valuable?

Part III

The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler:
Theatre as Art, Community and Message

To put it simply, this was the best theatrical experience I have had in a long time. Every element, the location, the performances, the script, the audience, the meal served at intermission . . . everything created a magical moment that truly resonated the value of the arts to our society.

The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler was written by Jeff Whitty who also wrote the musical scripts for Avenue Q  which won a Tony Award. For this production at Exit, Pursued by A Bear (EPBB), Whitty also peformed the role of Hedda Gabler with exquisite grace and beauty. It was truly amazing to watch. This talented professional cast also included Billy Porter, whose bio is almost a full page in the program,  in the role of Mammy. Both of these men played these female roles with poignancy and humor and true empathy. Each member of the ensemble just added to power of this performance.

I find it difficult to explain this in my own words, so I will quote from the Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, the Artistic Director of EPBB and the director of this production:

“There is no adventure more unusual, nor story more extraordinarily human, than the birth of Hedda Gabler as she journeys from literary fiction to independent self-awareness. Tonight, you’ll have the further pleasure of watching the playwright portray his own protagonist, and you’ll experience the author and his character mounting a passionate, thrilling and moving defence of the theatre.
Jeff treats his characters–and his colleagues–with profound empathy and sincere affection. It is a fundamentally nurturing instinct that remind me of why I fell in love with the theatre–as a craft, and as a lifestyle. We are drawn to the theatre because we know we’ll meet like-minded misfits there, those others who are terrorized by isolation, face the same nameless terrors and sleepless nights and take comfort in sharing the experiences that make us who we are. The familiar (and unfamiliar) characters in Jeff’s play are slivers of the human imagination dating back to the Greeks: they are evidence of where we’ve been and the foundations for where we’ll go.”

What you need to really understand why this was such a profound and powerful evening of theatre for me, is that it is not your typical production. EPBB presents their plays in the home, yes the loft apartment, of Artistic Director Iskandar. The plays are free (although they ask for donations), and they provide a delicious vegetarian meal for every audience member during intermission. When you enter, the cast is mingling with the audience and welcoming you with a glass of wine or other beverage. (Audience members are asked to bring drinks or desserts).  During intermission, these same incredible talents, who have just wowed you on the stage help serve the meal and mingle more with the audience. After the play, they help serve dessert and the audience is welcome to stay and enjoy this party for as long as they like. Conversations and laughter abound, and the line between audience and performer blurs in a delightful way.

In some ways it is a return to the roots of theatre, to the storytelling and sharing around the fire, to celebrations of community and the lessons every member of that community has to teach. This show comes down to the basic purpose of theatre, to share story and encourage empathy and understanding.

Unfortunately for those of you in New York, the show closed last night. But, if anyone is ever in New York City and finds out a production is being put on at Exit, Pursued By a Bear put it at the top of your list.

You won’t regret it!!!



Creativity vs. Expertise

I’ve  had a few epiphanies since my meeting about Slovakia. Perhaps because I made the decision to just be open to whatever happens, I’ve realized some important things about myself, my life and what it all means.

To begin, I am a creative person.

I know, some of you are shocked at that statement. 😉 Wait until you read the next one.

I am a very self-critical person.

(I can hear some of you saying “No S%*#, Sherlock!” or some less vulgar variation like, “Duh!”)

At the same time, I am the first person to encourage others to embrace their creative sides. I recognize the power of creativity as a learning tool, as a method of healing, as a way of communicating, and so on.

If I can do that, why am I so hard on myself?

Saturday, the KramerLee family aided by Uncle Steve and one of Nathan’s students, all headed to Chelsea, MA (1 hour away) to help Nathan paint some of the set he is designing for an upcoming production of Uncle Vanya. I admit, this was not completely an act of selfless volunteerism, I wanted to do it in the hopes that I might be able to see my husband a little before I disappear into Slovakia for 11 days, and the show opens on December 29th.

I also had the urge to paint something fun.

While there were several things that needed painting, I wanted to do the backdrop of the outdoor scene, which was meant to look kind of like an impressionistic forest of trees. The student and I started working on that while Sarah and Uncle Steve scraped furniture (Sarah wanted to do whatever Steve was doing) and Nathan got other projects ready.

You can tell who dove in and who hesitated more.

I dove in, just enjoying the moment, not worrying about the end result. The student, however, spent a lot of time stressing on if he was doing it “right”. Now, since none of us are expert painters, and certainly not in impressionist styles, I kept pointing out to him that it didn’t matter if it was right or wrong. In the end, the result would be great.

Even without stage lighting, this looks cool.

I explained, as he worried, that one of the great things about theater is that we don’t always know what we are doing, we just find creative ways to get the job done. In this instance, all of us joined the challenge to achieve the goal.

We all got into the action.

It makes sense to make the shortest person get the highest stuff, or at least it does to Sarah who insisted on painting on the ladder.

So, where does the epiphany come in? It comes from me finally recognizing that there is a difference between living a creative life and being an expert at something. My personal struggle has always been with wanting to be recognized for what I do, whether it is through pay or awards or acknowledgement or thank you’s or  a title or whatever.  In my mind, I equate those things with being an “expert” with “value.”

But, in reality, an expert is a person who “has special skills at a task or knowledge in a subject.” It has nothing to do with pay or a title. I have a lot of expertise in a lot of different areas, but that doesn’t matter. What really matters to me is that I live my life as creatively as possible.

Nathan and I were talking the other day about what the word “career” means. “Could living be your career?” he asked.

Could living be my career? Does a career require a salary or a certain level of achievement? Or could my career be simply living a creative life, and encouraging other people to do the same?

Now my personal goal is to embrace the idea that living creatively is my career. It may never make me money or give me fame, but I believe I will look back on that life and say “I REALLY lived!”

What do you think?

Leaping into Possibility

Yesterday I was presented with an opportunity.

This is not an employment opportunity, as a matter of fact it is an expensive opportunity.

But it is an important opportunity nonetheless.

op·por·tu·ni·ty [op-er-too-ni-tee, -tyoo-] noun, plural -ties. appropriate or favorable time or occasion.
2. a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal.
3. a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success. (

Rambling Thoughts

When I first saw this adventure posted on my Facebook page, my thoughts went like this:
“Wow! I want to do that! I should post it in case any of my friends are interested. Hmm, I’d really like to do that, but I don’t have a job so how can I justify it? But, I’ve given up opportunities before . . . so maybe its time I take a chance. No, I can’t do it.”
Soon after this little internal discussion, I got a personal message from the artistic director asking me to join them on this adventure. See, a few years ago I had been invited by Dramatic Adventure Theatre to participate in their program called ActionEcuador, where they spend time in several areas of Ecuador serving the community, teaching theater and exploring how the arts can help with social change. All things that  I am truly passionate about. They then spend a week creating theater pieces to be performed in New York later in the summer. Nathan and I were all set to do this wonderful program, bringing Sarah with us, when the world came crashing down around us and our futures became unsure. Needless to say, we had to let the opportunity pass.
That wasn’t the first international theater opportunity that I had to turn down because of changing circumstances and financial issues. A few years earlier, just before we moved to Colorado, I had been scheduled to participate in a mid-summer program for 10 days in Russia learning about theater and arts education in schools. That fell through when we had to move that summer.
My most recent lost opportunity involved an application to create theater in Pakistan, but I’m sure you can guess why that one fell through.
This time, however, my war with myself took on new meaning. True, financially it isn’t the best time for me to take this adventure, since I am underemployed and we are living in an expensive state. But, in term of where I am in my life, and my pursuit of reinventing myself and trying to create the career of my dreams, this is the perfect time. In terms of when the trip happens, its the perfect time, as I don’t begin teaching the one class I have until January 17th and my brother is available to help Nathan with parenting duties.
So what was stopping me? Two things.

Guilt and Fear!!!!

The issue of guilt: How could I possibly justify the expense when I am not bringing in very much in terms of income, and it means some of the things we planned as a family will have to be postponed?  But in reality, as soon as I mentioned the possibility to Nathan, his response was:

“I really want you to do this, so let us sit down and figure out the finances and what needs to be done to make it happen.”

And when I talked to Sarah about it her response was “I’ll be sad” until I explained it was only for a couple of weeks when she changed it to “You should go.”
So really, guilt was just an excuse. The more terrifying thing holding me back was, indeed, my perpetual stumbling block
But what exactly am I afraid of? Because when I think clearly, there’s nothing to fear:
  • I love the people who run this program, and although we’ve only spent a short time together in person I feel like we were meant to meet. In fact, I could easily have included both Jesse and Mary K in my post celebrating fabulous friends.
  • I’m not afraid of travel, and I love to see new cultures. Well, I get nervous travelling, especially flying, but ultimately once I’m there all is good.
  • The trip is pretty much planned for me, all I have to figure out is my flight there and back (and any extra visits to other places, which I probably won’t do anyway because of finances.)
So, what exactly am I afraid of?
The answer came out in my Morning Pages this morning, as I tried to work through my thoughts and emotions surrounding this possibility. Although Morning Pages are meant to be private, I shared them with Nathan and I now share a portion with you, so that you understand what’s going on in my head:
“I’m afraid of opportunity, because I’m afraid that I will waste the opportunity. If I don’t try, I can’t fail. But then again, isn’t not trying simply another type of failure? . . . this trip gives me the chance to see theatre in action, which is the type of theatre that I value. It is about the power of the arts to change lives. If I don’t do it, if I can’t make it happen, then I’m still all talk and no action. So going is the right thing to do. Or am I making excuses to do what I want? Am I being selfish? . . . Where should I look for guidance? My instincts are all out of whack, or at least I’ve lost the ability to trust my own instincts anymore. I don’t know how to follow my gut.  “
Before I completed the morning pages, I read them to Nathan and asked what he thought I should do. Here was my response to his answer:
“Tears just poured down my face as he encouraged me to just go for it. Just do it. Live in the now and not worry about whether or not I achieve anything big or important. So I guess the answer is before me. Sarah even says I should do it.  Looks like I’m heading to Slovakia. I wonder what happens next.”
After that outpouring on the page, I got up and filled out the application. Then, of course, the doubts started creeping in again. But, in a miraculous way, signs from this wonderful blogging community keep cropping up to reinforce that I’m doing the right thing:
  • First I saw this lovely post called “What I Missed Today” on Gifts of the Journey, which shares what can happen if you don’t take the opportunities the world provides.
  • Next, I saw this post by a blogger that I’ve only recently become acquainted with, who is pursuing her graduate degree in theater and is going to be facilitating a workshop using Theater of the Oppressed techniques in Occupy Boston. A simple reminder of the power of theater to help create a better world.
  • And, just a few moments ago, this post celebrating the life of Dorothy Heathcote, reminded me of why I pursued a PhD in theater for youth in the first place. My dream was to create theater that explored cultural difference and promoted cultural understanding; a dream of mine that has been buried if not forgotten.

So friends, it looks like 2011 will end with me stepping onto a plane toward possibility, and 2012 will begin with a creative journey into unknown destinations. Look for me to blog about it.

From Floods to Fairies and Future Possibilities

Thursday dawned with good intentions. I was going to explore the area a little more in search of a coffee shop/book store that looked ideal for my needs. I was going to do a little job searching and take advantage of that coffee shop internet. At home, I was going to work on strengthening my resumes and perhaps unpacking some more or painting Sarah’s room.

Then came the deluge.

It had been raining much of the night, but it seemed to come down harder in the early morning hours. Just before Sarah set off for school, I suggested to Nathan that we might want to check the basement for water since our landlords had warned us of the possibility of minor flooding.

After soggy Sarah climbed onto the bus, Nathan went down to check.  “Oh, I see a little water,” he called up. “I’m going to vacuum it up!”

A few minutes pass. “CALL THE LANDLORDS! I CAN’T STOP IT!”

I call the landlords, and as I do, I glance out the back door toward the deck, to see water pouring downhill toward us in three glorious (though small) cascades.

Our personal waterfalls

Then I headed downstairs to find water spread across the entire lower level, reaching up to my ankles. Nathan was desperately moving boxes onto plastic tubs to protect them. The garage that contained most of the boxes still waiting for unpacking, although not completely covered had several large puddles. You could see where the water was pouring in through various cracks and it was incredible.

We managed to get all the boxes up. Most of them contain the books that I can’t unpack without more shelves. Thank goodness we brought extra plastic tubs.

Then we began using a wet vac to suck the water out. The vacuum held 9 gallons at a time, and before our landlords got there with a sump pump I’m sure we had sucked out well over 100 gallons, with little to show for it. Sump pump in, we kept sucking, and the landlords went and bought a second sump pump. Eventually Nathan had to get to work, but we kept plugging. The rain stop and the sun made an effort to come out. Finally, about 4 hours later, we left the dehumidifier to battle whatever moisture remained on the floor and called it good.

After that adventure I lost any enthusiasm, ability, or even focus to allow me to concentrate on achieving the goals I had set out. I wasn’t going to look for the coffee shop with road had puddles up to the bottom of my car. The boxes looked overwhelming, and my resumes are intimidating. So what did I do?

I painted.

Before we left Colorado I had a sudden urge to oil paint. I’ve never oil painted in my life, and never had any training with oils. I painted two pictures, well one and a half. The first I call “The Dream Home”, and while I don’t love how the tree came out in it, I think it was a pretty good first shot.

I’ll have to add a picture of it later as I forgot to take one and load it onto my computer.

The half painting was something I was calling “Fairy Home” and I had only gotten so far before I got intimidated and stopped. When we unpacked art, we found this painting, and Sarah said, “I like that Mommy. When it is done can I hang it in my room?”

So I decided to finish it. Please be kind:

Finally I closed Thursday down to crawl into bed exhausted and unsure after what seems like another in a series of chaotic events in my life.

But Friday began a new day, with a dry basement, internet access at a good coffee shop, and plans to go to a huge antique sale for the afternoon. Of course, first we had to deal with the bureaucracy of registering our car and getting our driver’s licenses. I won’t dwell on that, however, as I am sure we have all had our horror stories–and this one was comparatively benign although annoying at the time.

As I waded through 130+ e-mails and realized I could not catch up on all the blogging friends and other business, I found a miracle. A potential job teaching kids acting classes on Saturday mornings at a professional theater in Boston area. I jumped on it, quickly wrote a cover letter and sent off my resume. Who knows what will happen, but it was a positive step. Then I embarrassed myself by e-mailing something to a fellow blogger that was purely the fiction of my own mind, but I won’t go into that either.

Today I registered Sarah for dance class and was talking to the owner of the studio. As I did, I decided to take a leap, and told her about myself to see if she might be interested in using me in some capacity. Another miracle, she said “Yes!” It is all tentative and talk right now, but at least I put myself out there.

So, through floods and fairies I finally feel like I may be moving forward.

Care to join me in a ROAR of VICTORY?!

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.

Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

I am doing it. The ultimate sacrifice. In the name of a lighter load, I am purging my t-shirt collection. Now, to be fair, I believe I have done this a few times before, as many of my t-shirts seem to have disappeared, but it is never easy.

Have you ever thought about the story of your life as it is told through fashion? Well, obviously we all go through trends and stages of fashion in our life. But, since I avoid the camera and haven’t really kept up with fashion trends (or really shopped for myself) for a long time, I can’t share that story here. I can, however, share part of my story as it is told through t-shirts. So join me through a trip down memory lane.

Perhaps the oldest t-shirt in my collection is this beauty from Fitzwilly’s in Northampton, MA, one of my favorite restaurants from my undergraduate college days at Smith.

Bought at Fitzwilly's ca. 1990

If I Tell You What It Means Will You Buy Me A Drink (Back of Fitzwilly's t-shirt)

Next we skip a few years (I don’t know what happened to t-shirts from Japan) and head to Hawaii, for adventures galore.

I got this at Sea Life Park in Hawaii the week after I graduated with my MFA from the University of Hawaii. For complicated reasons this t-shirt meant more than my diploma at the time.

I love this t-shirt given to me when my dear friend Nancy visited me in Hawaii from Japan. I hope she visits me in Mass., or better yet, I get to visit her in Japan someday.

We bought this on Maui, when Nathan finally admitted that he didn't really want to see anyone else. (For more on that story see the post called "Stumbling into Romance"

From Hawaii, we skip another few years to my doctoral program. Nathan and I got married in Hawaii, while I was in the middle of a doctoral program at Arizona State University. 7 months later, he moved to Vermont for work and I stayed in Arizona to finish up my dissertation.  I did research at three different professional companies for Young Audiences: Childsplay in Tempe, AZ; Dallas Children’s Theater; and my favorite Metro Theatre Company in St. Louis, MO (a company I learned about during the year before I started at ASU when we lived nearby.

I think we bought this t-shirt when we were in Hawaii to get married. It is dyed with chocolate (Yum) and smelled like chocolate for a while.

I spent a wonderful week or so at Metro, observing, interviewing and helping during their summer education program called Arts Intersection.

Move forward again, to our time in Vermont. We both taught. I directed, and I started a children’s theater company which didn’t survive much past my time there, as we had to move on.

Short lived, but well loved.

"Life is Good" when you live near enough to the Ben & Jerry factory for a tour.

For some reason I don’t have any t-shirts from the next stop on our living tour, Durango, CO. I guess I never bought any or didn’t keep them. I do have one from the first summer as a family at Okoboji Summer Theater, which happened while we lived in Durango.

And that brings us to the present. A t-shirt filled year in Independence, KS

I wonder what my next t-shirt will be. What is the t-shirt story of your life?

It’s All in the Perspective

“I can’t believe we have a summer home!” Sarah KramerLee

Nathan and I couldn’t help but laugh at Sarah’s perspective on our summer lives. While my idea of a summer home might be more like this:

A dream home by the lake in Okoboji, IA

with the ability to do this on a regular basis:

Heading back to the dock to hang out after a lovely boat ride.

to Sarah that doesn’t matter. In her mind, and her perspective, this simple little cabin is our “summer home.”

At the cabin at Okoboji Summer Theatre 2010.

To Nathan this place is

“like going back for a family reunion after not seeing them for a while.”

It is a place to focus purely on doing good theater and quality work without other things interfering. In some ways, then, to Nathan it is a home, but it is also a job and an experience that he values every year.

My perspective becomes a little more complicated. If this is a family reunion, then I am the awkward black sheep relative–the one who wants to make her way into the family circle and does not know how.  I recognize and value the wonderful creative atmosphere of this place, as well as the work ethic. I crave to be allowed to contribute to this work using the skills I bring with me, because I do have the talent to participate on an equal level.  But, for a number of complicated reasons, I don’t feel that I have a role or a position to play here, beyond being part of this extended family. So, from my perspective, I can’t quite call it a summer home of my own–rather it is closer to the summer home that I hold in my dreams but have yet to really achieve.

I know that I’ll never achieve the true dream summer home, which requires an inflow of money that could only happen if I win the lottery. But I wonder if, with a slight change of perspective, I can begin to see this place as simply OUR SUMMER HOME.

Only time will tell.

What kinds of things do you think change depending on the perspective?


Today’s Quote:

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” Marcus Aurelius 

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