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.


Wishing for a Dip in the Creative Pool

“If you think of the universe as a vast electrical sea in which you are immersed and from which you are  formed, opening to your creativity changes you from something bobbing in that sea to a more  fully functioning, more conscious, more cooperative part of that ecosystem.

[. . .]

The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity.” (Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way)

Today my wish may seem personal, because of my own dreams of becoming  a published author along with other creative aspirations. However, this wish goes beyond the personal because of some things I believe. I believe that there is energy that joins all life. I believe in a common pool of thoughts, experiences, and ideas–creative sparks–that some are able to access better than others. That pool contains the essence of creation. I believe that everyone has access to that creative pool, but some have cut themselves off and denied their own creative souls. I believe everyone is creative, although creativity takes different forms and is expressed in different ways.

I believe that living a creative life makes life worth living.

This doesn’t mean  that every person needs to be an artist or a writer in a traditional sense. It means that I wish for everyone to be able to access the power from that creative pool in order to enrich their lives. I wish  for everyone to be able to touch their inner child–for children are much closer to this creative energy–or dip into their hidden dreams to embrace their bliss beyond the day-to-day exercise of living.

I wish that everyone had the opportunity to swim in that creative pool, because I also believe that if we can recognize the things that connect us, we can find new answers to the problems that plague us. We will be less afraid of things that are different from us, because we will see  difference is another form of creativity, another expression of meaning drawn from this pool of energy that joins us.

“Why should we all use our creative power . . . ? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money.” (Brenda Ueland)

Sometimes I ask myself why I keep writing everyday. Why, when it seems like I will never break through to sell an actual book or to have my words read by more than a handful of people, do I keep trying? Why do I have pages and pages of creative writing, of short stories, of novel starts, of poetry, of journal entries, of essays that will never see the light of day?

The answer is  simple, writing is my way of accessing the energy within the pool, energy that connects me with all life.

There have been rare occasions when I so completely lose myself into the pool that I hardly know  the words that come out. Someone, something, some form of energy pours through me to write something that is beyond me,  even though it contains my words and my style. I love when that happens. I love when I lose myself to the flow of energy, of creativity and of words, and never notice the passage of time.

Some of my best work comes out of those moments. Some of my best blog posts have come out of those moments. For example, this piece of fiction entitled The Moon Calls.

Sometimes my dip into the creative pool leads me away from words and into directions I never expect.

The Storyteller

Today I wish that everyone would be able to experience the power of this creative pool and recognize what it really means . . . simply that we are all connected by the power of creation.

Who is ready to jump into the pool and go for a swim?


Yearning for a Front Porch

The sound of laughter and jokes from the front stoop below my bedroom window almost every summer night when I was around nine (my daughter’s age now) tortured me as I lay in bed, yearning for the days when I could stay up later, imagining that this tradition would carry over even after my more popular older (by five years) sister had moved on. I was wrong. By the time I was old enough to participate, there were only a few fleeting moments on my front stoop, as the neighborhood kids opted for other activities that I wasn’t always welcome at. (Let’s just say the neighborhood got a little rougher over those years).

I don’t have a lot of pictures of Deb and I when she was in high school, so this will have to do.

I feel like I missed out on something special.

Not that I didn’t have some time experiencing the porch life. There were the occasional games of Truth or Dare where I actually had to kiss a boy. The stoop became home base for games of tag that spread around the neighborhood.  There were hook-ups and break-ups (none which involved me, just the lone Truth or Dare kiss). But that only lasted one or two short summers, while my sister’s reign as queen of the neighborhood lasted pretty much throughout her teen years.

(Yes, I admit, I was jealous of her).

Of course, I had a few other front porch experiences as a child that live on in my memory. Perhaps the strongest of those memories was sitting on the front porch of my Great Aunt Irene’s house near the beach and listening to the stories of times gone by, of relatives long-gone, and of my father’s childhood that even as we speak fades deeper and deeper into lost memory.

As I was reading Kathy’s post called “Redefining Front-Porch Culture: Bloggers and a World-Wide Notion of Neighbor” flashes of these “front-porch” moments came into my head, and I realized that I really want a front-porch.  Our first house in Vermont had a lovely front porch, but it was on the corner of a busy street, and we weren’t there long enough to establish a front porch community. Actually, most of the meeting and chatting took place in the yard between two homes.

I miss that.

Our homes since then have been front-porch-less. Of course, in Durango, CO we would meet with friends in the neighborhood and chat in the driveway, but it still wasn’t the same. Again, we were on the curve of a somewhat busy street, so it wasn’t exactly the safest place for hanging out and chatting. I had to go to other people’s homes for that.

Now, in our current home, not only are we front-porch-less, but we are also up a steep driveway and hidden behind trees. It’s beautiful, but doesn’t lend to casual stopping by as someone takes a walk down the street.

No porch here.

Across the street from Sarah’s front window. A gap in the trees.


Kathy suggests that blogging is perhaps

“. . .  a front porch, of sorts—a place from which virtual neighbors come and go.  When we leave comments, we take the time to stay and ‘set a spell’.”

I like that image and that idea, but I still yearn for a real front porch. I want to live in a neighborhood where people know each other. I want to have friends that drop by for tea, and I want my house filled with the sound of children playing on the front porch or stoop.

I wonder if those kinds of neighborhoods even exist anymore? I’ll keep holding onto that dream and keep looking.

But for now, I guess I will enjoy my virtual front porch.

Would anyone like a cup of tea?


Disconnected . . .

“I’m sorry, but the number you have reached has been disconnected.”

Have you ever felt like there was a complete disconnect between your brain and your reality?

Today I seem to be wandering in a fog of disconnection. I don’t know the cause. It could be one of any number of things:

  • the shift in the weather (from broiling 100+ to a downright comfortable 80 degrees, but with thunderstorms attached);
  • the numerous days of uncomfortable, back-breaking sleep in beds that come right out of Goldilocks (this bed is too hard, this bed is too soft, where is the one that’s JUST RIGHT?)
  • the search for identity that seems to occur every time I set foot on this lot
  • or simply a disconnect that has to happen once in a while.

How does the disconnect work? Well, it seems like ideas pop into my head and then get stuck before they can be put on the page, the stage, or anywhere in the universe. Sometimes my body wants to do one thing, but my brain does not want to cooperate. Sometimes words come out of my mouth but seem to float in the ether, rather than make contact with anyone else’s ears.  Take this morning for example:

Nathan: Who did you pick up yesterday? What are the names of Michael’s wife and daughter?

Me: (just waking up)  Um . . . Kimberly and um . . . I can’t think of her name right now. I forget.

Nathan: OK, but what is the daughter’s name?


Nathan: Oh, yeah . . . sorry.

Conversations like this happen all the time. Either I don’t speak loudly enough, or there is a disconnect between the words that come out of my mouth and the words people hear.

It’s funny that, just as I begin thinking about the connections we make in our world I feel more disconnected with myself, my work, and the life that seems to swirl around me as I wade through unable to touch or be touched.

Do you ever feel completely disconnected? What do you do to reconnect?

Freaky side note, as I just went to place tags on this post, one of the recommended tags is “Borderline personality disorder”. Did I just get psychoanalyzed by a WordPress App? I’m not sure how I feel about that, but hey . . . maybe I should just go with the flow. 😉 Thoughts?

People I Have Met . . .

A fabulous couple! Who count in the list of “Bloggers I Have Met”

I’m thinking about connections, again. I write about this often, about the people we meet along the way. People who touch our lives, if only for a moment. People who affect our choices, encourage our dreams, change our paths–without us even realizing that the person or the moment is significant.

Yesterday, I read a post by Linda Katz called “‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’: Celebrate Beauty!”. Linda officially counts as one of the  “Bloggers who I have met,” a small group of people who add to the fascinating  connections in my world.  I met her before I read her blog, during one of my NYC adventures this past year. I connected with her journey to find the Jews of Europe, to understand why they returned to countries which had basically tried to wipe them off the face of the earth. We talked for a while on the evening we first met, and I have followed her through her blog, because meeting her was one of those moments.

Linda’s post discusses the pros and cons of a beauty contest for Holocaust survivors, a contest which really celebrated the inner beauty of a group of women who survived some of the ugliest mankind has to offer, and moved onto live lives that surpassed the horrors of the Holocaust.

I think their story would make an amazing play.

But this post isn’t about their story. It is about the stories of all the people I have met along the way.

As I read the story, I thought back to my Hebrew School teacher, Mrs. Sekler who pulled me aside one day to show me blue numbers faded into her arm. She told me her story. I don’t recall the details, although I do know she watched her family die. When she shared her story with me, she changed my world because she was a woman who faced evil and still was able to love.

I wish I knew more about her.

There are so many people who touched my life only briefly, but my contact with them has affected me in numerous ways. I am horrible, in that I cannot remember names much of the time, and I only see snippets of faces–an eye here, hair there, perhaps a smile. But, when I look back at all the people I have met, even if only for a moment, I realize how amazing this world really is:

  • my French pen-pal who I met while I was in high school. She showed me parts of France that I was lucky to see.
  • Akemi, one of my good friends from Japan, who broke all the stereotypes and taught me how to reach for dreams.
  • The Russian women who I met in Bali. They packed up and explored the world after the death of their husbands, which made me aspire to a future where I live my life to the fullest.
  • Kenro, another Japanese friend, a teddy bear with muscles and an adorable smile, who made me believe in romance and the possibility of finding Prince Charming (no he wasn’t a romance he just made me believe in romance)/
  • Rita Smith, my amazing Social Studies teacher in high school, who taught me that learning can and should be joyous fun.
  • The woman who took me under her wing during my summer in Myrtle Beach,  South Carolina, taught me to dance The Shag (badly) and showed me that friendship can be formed through difference, even of age, if you are only open to it.
  • Mindy, one of my fellow teachers in Japan, a feisty, tough Australian woman who broke rules and taught me how to live life with gusto.
  • The man on a flight back to Arizona from Vermont, who talked to me the whole way about research, life, dreams and aspirations. I usually don’t talk much when I fly alone, but somehow the conversation with him seemed very important.

My list could go on forever, with the hundreds of There are also, of course, people who meet and affect life in negative ways. They count too, if only for the lessons they teach. In this case, I am not naming names even if I remember them:

  • My professor from grad school who taught be my first real lesson about power, manipulation, and jealousy.
  • The colleague at another college that continued that lesson, while attempting to destroy our lives and careers.
  • The boy at a swim meet who made biased jokes forcing me to stand up for myself and my beliefs.
  • The family who hated my family throughout my childhood, simply because we were Jews. They taught me to fight against bias based off of ignorance.

Fortunately that list isn’t as long, but it too could continue on if I wanted it too. I don’t want to do that.

I feel like I have met so many more people on this blogging journey, even if I have yet to meet most of them in person. I am so honored to have met a few (you know who you are) and hope to meet more in the future (possibly even at the end of the summer, Tori?)

Dory, one of the “Bloggers I have met.” She lives bravely, and I want to learn from her.

Who are the people you have met, even if only for a moment, that have influenced your life in some way?

A Story from the Heart, or The Writer I Want to Be

I’ve been doing A LOT of reading lately.

I’ve been reading books of all types and genres. Sometimes I read for escape, but more often than not I am reading to figure out who I am as a writer. One of the flaws of the course I am taking is that it will soon shift into focusing on how to market your book, instead of just on the writing of the book. This is great in the sense that I will have a complete package ready to send off to publishers or agents or  whoever I find the courage to send the book too, once it is finished. But, I find focusing on the market sometimes makes it harder for me to write.

What’s the use of writing if you only write to sell, rather than write to tell a story?

It’s no use marketing something if I cannot finish it.

My struggle lies in naming the genre of the book. I have called it fantasy, but it doesn’t fall into the land of fairies of  elves made famous by writers like Tolkien.  The book that to me has the closest relationship to the story I want to tell is The Handmaid’s Tale  by Margaret Atwood, so I guess you could call my project a dystopian novel or a work of speculative fiction, but that doesn’t cover the story either, or incorporate the “magical” elements. And I am not Margaret Atwood.

So I’ve been reading, searching for examples of what I am writing. In reality, I think, I’ve been searching for a reason to keep writing– evidence that the story I am telling might be interesting enough for someone to read.

I’ve figured out what my book is not. It is not a paranormal romance, although there is an element of paranormal in it and I’m not sure yet whether or not romance will play a role. It is not a literary novel, or at least not one that plays with language and focuses more on character than on plot, although I think I usually write more with character in mind. It is definitely not chick lit.

So what, exactly am a I trying to write?

I still don’t know. So I keep reading, trying to write, and searching for who I am as a writer.

This morning I finished a book that showed me who I want to be as a writer. Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock is is an emotional roller coaster. I cried off and on throughout, especially through the last few chapters. However, it was so beautifully written, and the characters were so interesting I enjoyed every moment of the emotional journey. Hancock writes with lyricism and brutal honesty. She writes a story from the heart, and that is what I love.

Here is the book description as found on Amazon.com:

“An unvarnished portrait of a marriage that is both ordinary and extraordinary, Dancing on Broken Glass takes readers on an unforgettable journey of the heart.

Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder; she, a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry.

Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work—and they put their commitment in writing. Mickey will take his medication. Lucy won’t blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, there are good days and bad days—and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is.”

The story carried me forward for a number of reasons:

  • Incredible writing that is beautiful, poignant, and honest.
  • Characters who felt real. Mickey’s voice, which we hear in the beginning of each chapter as well as at the end of the book, fascinated me, especially after reading some of the powerful posts Kathy has written over at reinventing the event horizon about her own journey dealing with being bipolar. Kathy has always amazed me, and somehow reading a story like hers in a fictionalized character just made me realize how incredible she truly is. I can say the same about the character of Lucy, the main voice of the story, whose journey made me think of another  amazing Cathie in my life, one who battled breast cancer while watching her daughter fight (and eventually succumb) to a rare form of stomach cancer. She is another woman who inspires me to live life fully because the future is uncertain. I was grateful to be reminded of her as I read the story of Lucy.
  • Although I knew I would cry, I loved the freedom of the tears. I really needed them

This book, combined with my recent reading of Gifts from the Seahave shown me who I would like to be as a writer. I want to write a story that touches people in many ways. I want a story that reminds people of their own lives, their own stories, their own dreams. I want to make people laugh, cry, scream, smile, or simply think. I want to write beautiful words full of meaning and emotion.

So that is the writer I want to be. The hard work will be getting there.

Kathy McCullough in her wonderful backyard, which she wrote about today (click the image to go to her post), when I met her last summer.

The other wonderful Cathie in my life. I stole this picture from Facebook.

Two Years

Two years ago today I started this blog.

Since that first pathetic post I have:

  • written 585 posts
  • approved 7629 comments
  • been protected from 5738 spam comments
  • had (supposedly) 39,054 views
  • written hundreds and hundreds of comments on other people’s blogs
  • gained and lost subscribers (right now I have 155 blog followers).

But these numbers really don’t mean anything to me. Since I started this blog, I have also:

  • lived in four states (Colorado, Iowa for summer theatre work, Kansas, and Massachusetts).
  • taught several hundred students of all ages in theatre, writing, English lit, puppetry and other areas.
  • driven thousands of miles (including across country three times)
  • read approximately 118 books
  • walked miles and miles in beautiful locations
  • taken hundreds of pictures
  • created a couple of pieces of “art”
  • directed shows
  • taught camps
  • written hundreds of morning pages
  • met amazing people
  • traveled out of the country
  • played too many computer games
  • been angry, scared, sad, happy, excited, lonely, content, frustrated, confident, doubtful and any other emotion you can think of
  • gained and lost weight
  • shared ideas with wonderful women
  • eaten chocolate, laughed and celebrated life
  • cried millions of tears

In other words I’ve lived my life. I’ve tried to share honestly on these pages. I’ve written words from the heart. I have been honored to interact with many incredible people. I admit that I still envy bloggers who seem to ease into successful blogs: the ones who get Freshly Pressed repeatedly while I limp forward slowly, the ones with hundreds and hundreds of followers and hundreds of thousand of hits. I admit that there are days that I feel frustrated and wonder why I bother. What do I hope to achieve with this blog?

That question looms large as I celebrate this, my second blogiversary. What do I hope to achieve with this blog? Where do I go from here? Do I continue as I’ve been doing, posting about whatever inspires me at any given moment, including rants and rambles along the way? Do I start something new, coming up with a more focused vision? Or do I simply give up, saying, “it was a good try but now move on to something realistic” ?

I am in the middle of reinventing myself, of discovering who I want to be and what marks I want to leave in this world. Saturday I spent the day with theatre educators and others who are passionate about the importance and value of arts education in the schools, and arts as part of life. I discovered people who are doing incredible work, on both a large and a small-scale. I was reminded that I do belong in that world in many ways, I just have yet to figure out how I contribute.

I live in a world of creative energy, and am slowly finding a foothold in that world. Blogging has helped me in many ways. I have learned so much from fellow bloggers, that I’m not sure where to even begin. But, I will try.

  • I’ve learned how to see the world a little differently from people like Piglet in Portugal and Terry at The Incredible Lightness of Seeing. Because of them I carry my camera with me wherever I go, and began incorporating my own images into my posts more often.
  • I’ve learned about courage from many sources, but particularly: Kathy at Reinventing the Event Horizon who is delving into her past with beauty, compassion and courage; Mark at The Idiot Speaketh who faces the challenges of his disability with humor and honesty, while still offering compassion and support wherever needed,  Ré at Sparks in the Shadows who is heart-breakingly honest with her struggles in life, but works daily to improve herself as a writer and challenge her world; and Dory at If I Were Brave who challenges herself daily to bring joy and face her fears. She’s now embarking on a fiction writing course and I know she will shine in that.
  • I’ve learned about love from Christine (who has also helped me see the power of photography). Ahab and Tori. I’ve learned about the craft of writing from Broadside and Wordsxo. I’ve learned about pursuing passion from Julia’s hundred word challenge and Stuart’s commitment to the arts.

My list could go on and on, but I honestly don’t have time to link to all the fabulous blogs I’ve read. Because, one of the downsides of blogging is that I have blogged away all the time I need to do other things. I am just starting on a book project with actual deadlines. I need to focus my energy on that to some extent today, or I will not make my deadline. But, this blogging world is now a home, that I am afraid to leave. I am more comfortable writing here then I ever thought I would be in the early days of my blog. I have found a community. I have met a few bloggers, and hope to meet more. I have discovered amazing people who I connect to on many different levels.

In many ways my blog has become my home. But, I wonder, is it time for this little bird to leave her nest?

Creating Friendship in a 21st Century World

Gone are the days when making friends was as easy as walking into a classroom at school. Even for someone like myself, who is basically shy, I was bound to connect with one or two people and be able to call them friends.

Gone are the days of walking out the door, jumping on a bicycle and finding the gathering of neighborhood kids to play with.  Some of them I even called friends.

I know those neighborhoods still exist, but not where I live, and some of the freedom of those days has disappeared in a world where people seem to see a child molester around every corner. We often hole up in our homes, barely knowing our neighbors, and certainly not inviting them in for a cup of tea.

As an adult, it seems to becoming even more difficult to make friends. Sure, there is the instant camaraderie formed by people in work places, especially when you have interests in common. But what happens when you don’t have an office? What happens to people, like myself, who work on a project by project basis, or are only there one day a week, so don’t intermingle with office politics/celebrations/meetings?

Well, there’s always the PTO for parents. Or perhaps joining a gym or volunteering for an organization. Great places to meet people and make friends, right? Maybe, but I think even that has changed recently. Too often people have their own agendas for these types of activities, and there is really no way in the midst of planning, organizing, campaigning, and focusing on our own health to allow time to simply get to know each other. There is no time to make friends.

We have learned to hide behind our busy schedules and technology.

Yesterday, Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way wrote a post called “Disconnected Connections & Distractions” which, in addition to a few events this week, got me thinking about this topic. How and where do we make friends in the 21st century.

Last Tuesday I went to someone’s house for a cup of tea.

Shocking, isn’t it?

We had a lovely conversation, which turned into a light lunch before I headed back to do some more writing before Sarah got home.   Nothing strange about this scenario, right?

“I’ve never met someone this way,” my new friend said. “You know, where we just chatted for a minute at a coffee shop and now you came over my house. I was wondering if you left my address by the phone in case you disappeared today.  I mean, you don’t know me and basically came to a strangers house.”  We both laughed, but I admit that as I was driving to her house I had a moment of doubt . . . what am I driving to, I asked myself?

We have become a society of distrust, and that’s sad.

Before Christmas, I met another woman with whom I felt an instant connection. We started chatting as we dropped our daughters off at their musical theatre class, and I got the courage up to see if she had time for a cup of coffee. We went to the nearest coffee shop, and talked for almost an hour and  a half, until it was time to pick the kids up again. Great, I thought to myself, I’ve made a new friend.

We saw each other again briefly the next week at the musical theatre performance. Everything seemed great, and I thought, there’s a couple that we could become good friends with.

After the holidays, I sent an e-mail to her (she had given me her card when we first met) explaining that I was about to head to Slovakia but would love to meet up when I returned.

Her response? Nothing. Nada. Zip.

A few weeks back I read the “Candle Lighter Award” at If I Were Brave’s blog, and Dory gave me the courage to try a second e-mail. Maybe the first got spammed, I thought to myself. So I wrote a second one, cautious with my wording so I wouldn’t come off like a stalker:

“I just thought I would drop a note and say hello, as I haven’t seen you at the Music Theatre drop off. If you ever feel like meeting up for lunch or coffee sometime, let me know.”

Again the response was nothing, nada, zip, zilch.

I gave up.

Yesterday, at the drop off, just as I was about to leave she and her daughter come swooping in. “Hi!” she says, a huge smile on her face. “Hold on a second while I get her in.”  She says goodbye to her daughter and turns to me, “I’m sorry I never got back to your e-mails, I’ve just been swamped . . . ”

“That’s ok,” I said. “I just figured you thought I was a crazy stalker.”

“No, of course not . . .” and the conversation went on from there.

We didn’t extend the conversation for coffee as she had errands to run, but we did leave open the possibility of meeting up sometime next week (school vacation) or at least starting on Thursday’s when classes meet up again.

All this is a roundabout way to getting to my point. We are instantly connected with so many people now, through technology that we can even carry in our pockets. Yet, somehow that technology has made making friends more of a challenge. We  are surrounded daily by threatening stories, that terrify us as we cocoon ourselves behind the four walls of our safety zones. We have lost the ability to trust each other, and to simply say I want to get to know you better without the feeling that somehow we are invading someone’s privacy.

We hide behind the safety of communicating in our own time. We respond to questions when it suits our needs. We read at our leisure, carefully crafting comments before we hit send.

While I feel like I have made friends through blogging, I am still cautious about extending the “let’s meet in person” invitation. I remember my heart beating quickly with nerves as I was about to meet Kathy from Reinventing the Event Horizons. I was honestly scared that she would think I was some kind of freak. But why should I feel that way? We already knew each other through pictures and words. We already knew each other through technology.

My fear stemmed from my general shyness, and a protective wall I’ve built around myself after being burned one to many times in friendship. But it also came from a pervasive loss that exists in our society–a loss stemming from continuous hiding behind technology. We have lost the ability to make friends simply by saying hello. We have lost the ability to trust. We have lost the idea that most people are good at heart.

We have become a society of lonely people.

I think that’s sad.

What do you think?

It All Comes Down to Relationships, Connections and Communication

On January 9th Nathan and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary, which means we have been together about 17 years.

Of course, I celebrated by taking a bus and a train from Zdiar to Bratislava, and then eating spinach and chicken pirohy followed by a decadent streussal for dessert. Nathan worked and then spent the evening with Sarah.

Strange anniversary, wouldn’t you say? But I don’t regret it one bit.

To make up for it, Nathan and I are heading to a Bed and Breakfast somewhere for the night. I don’t know where, and he decided to keep it a surprise.

Sometimes surprises are good for a relationship, just as sometimes time apart can help strengthen the bonds.

As I thought about this, I realized that one thing that we all have in common, no matter where we are from, is the desire for connection, for love, for relationships. Those relationships and connections come in all shapes and sizes. Some are healthy, some are not. Some require constant tending, and some freedom to breathe

On this trip, I observed a lot of different relationships, and a lot of ways of communicating within those relationships. Communication, however, is key, even across the barriers of culture. Some of the relationships I observed included:

  • the young married couple who do everything together, including running the theater company, travelling, working, helping, dreaming, and planning for the future. They are still very much in the honeymoon stage, and watching them together gives even the hardest heart hope for the power of a truly committed couple
  • the young couple who met on one of these adventures and balance each other perfectly. They both love writing and words and travel and people. He is more reserved, she is more outgoing, but the things that differ between them make them a stronger whole.
  • The very newly married Roma couple who,  as someone else said, “Are two puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly.”
  • The husband and wife owners of a Privat, who were perhaps the most adorable people I’ve every met. She was sweet and had a kind smile. He went out of his way to fix my glasses when they broke. You just know they are extremely happy together, and it shows in the comfort of their home.
  • The businessman/celebrity couple where I only met the celebrity half. She was supposed to be our guide on this trip, but she had to back out because he was going to America for business and if she wanted to see him she would have to go to. Oh, to have the flexible freedom to travel at the drop of a hat.
  • A slightly strange love triangle, which I will not go into here. Let’s just say that in situations like this, sometimes people try to create connections out of thin air, either as part of the adventure or because they are surrounded by other couples.

As much of this trip was about making connections, since the goal for Dramatic Adventure Theatre was to start a relationship with people in the country to establish the possibility of future projects (we were very successful), I found myself thinking a lot about how we connect and communicate with each other. One thing I realized is how often we learn to connect to each over meals. I wonder if the world’s problems could be solved by simply breaking bread together?

Our first meal as a group in Slovakia. I had beef goulash which was delicious. I loved the warm, cozy atmosphere of this traditional Slovakian restaurant.

Cozy colors and curves make for a comfortable atmosphere to make connections.

During the first couple of nights of the trip we stayed at a hostel in Bratislava. Now I have, I admit, outgrown the desire to stay in hostels. The first night was especially challenging because of the group of loud Russian travelers who spent the night smoking, drinking, and arguing right outside our window. However,  it was a fun and inexpensive way to get to know some of my fellow travelers. The girl’s bright orange and yellow room became the location of  a lot of silly hilarity including a fake fur muff turned elaborate head piece and a visit from a “ghost.”  All, of course, as we began to learn to communicate with each other and make connections.

Silly stuff at the hostel.

The hostel became the first place where I began to understand the thing that connects all human beings–the search for connections, relationship, friendship, understanding and love.  During our second night there my sleep was disturbed by a loud discussion under my window, a discussion that I understood even without hearing every word. Here is an excerpt from my journal written in the wee hours of the morning:

“I awoke early from a sleep filled with both heaviness and distraction all night long. I accidentally pulled the cord attached to the red lamp on the ledge above my head, pulling it down on me. The lamp itself has been humorous as it sat in the window overlooking an alley which isn’t exactly in the “nicest” part of town. “We’re open for business,” I jokingly say as I turn the red light on in the darkness of the night.

I would have gone back to sleep, if not for the discussion being held under my window in heavily accented (British or Kiwi or Australian) English. I don’t need to hear word for word this conversation to understand that it involves women, jealousy, friendships, alcohol, random hookups, stupid mistakes and a little fear. All that asked me, no forced me, to start writing, not just this journal entry but a ‘shitty first draft’ poem that staggered out of my pen, rather than flowed.”

Here is the poem that began me thinking about relationships and communication:

“It All Comes Down to Communication.”

Voices carrying in passionate discussion
from the street below.
Anger, sadness, frustration
in accents that challenge the ear.
I don’t need to understand,
I’ve heard it all before.

The discussion will continue
but end without cure
As language pours upon
blocked ears.Unwillingness
to hear, to listen.
I don’t need to understand,
I’ve heard it all before.

One cries, one lectures, one breaks tension with jokes.
Women arguing over men, broken hearts
and broken friendships.
I don’t need to understand,
I’ve heard it all before.

Sudden silence as they disappear
leaving behind the echoing remnants
of words said from heart and gut
completely bypassing the ears.
I don’t need to understand,
I’ve heard it all before.

The voices return with a new one in the mix.
Male tones join the fray.
Church bells ring the early morning
as the debate starts the day.
I don’t need to understand,
I’ve heard it all before.

Difference doesn’t matter.
Language doesn’t matter.
We all live lives filled
with love, hurt, pain, jealousy
with fears, hopes sadness and joy.
I don’t need to know the language,
I’ve seen it all before.

If everyone learned to really listen
and hear the humanity inside
then we would focus on
connections and understanding.
Body language reveals the not-so-hidden tensions
between people who’ve never met
filled with the hatred and judgement of centuries,
of culture, of difference.

I  don’t need to understand, I’ve known it all before.

Photo taken by Isa McKinney. Visit her blog for more insight into our Slovakian Adventure. (I've linked the picture to her blog)

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