Continuing the Celebration

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” (Oprah Winfrey)

Have you ever done this?

Have you ever tried to come up with a list of the things that make you unique? Things that are worth celebrating?

It’s difficult.

I don’t know if it is modesty or humility, or simply an unwillingness to stand up in front of the world and say “This is me. This is what I’ve done. This is who I am.”

Maybe I simply compare myself too often to others, and am unable to see the good in me.

On yesterday’s post, the talented Andra Watkins, who also shares this birthday month with me, wrote this comment:

“You did this. Period. [. . . ]”

Why can’t I just say, “I did this. Period.”? Without the but . . . or the clarification, or the explanation that somehow tries to justify why I am celebrating this particular thing.

Today, as I continue the list, I will try to keep to I did this. Period. (Explaining only enough for you to understand what I”m talking about). Here goes.

12. There’s no way to count the number of words I’ve written, in journals, in stories, in blog posts, in academic papers. Some words remain hidden from the eyes of others, some have been read by a handful of people, and some are just beginning their fearful journey into the light of day.

13. I have completed one novel for middle-grade readers, and one novel for YA/NA. Neither have been published, yet, but I am still hopeful and working toward that.

14. I was nominated for a Po’Okela award (kind of like the Tony’s of Hawaii)  in playwriting (as part of a group of writers) for The Kabuki Mikado.

15. I was also nominated for a Po’Okela award in lighting design for two productions The Staircase and Gertrude Stein and Her Companion. Did I mention that I studied lighting design and almost thought of going in that direction?

16. I was the first student at Smith College to design lights for a faculty directed production.

17. For a year after college, I did a combined internship in Electrics/Stage Management at StageWest, a (now defunct) regional theatre in Springfield, MA.

18. While in Japan, I moved from being told that “I was the weakest teacher” (without clarification) to becoming the Head Teacher/Trainer at a bigger school.

19. Over the past few years, I’ve tried to do something outside my comfort zone at least once each year. These things have included: taking a tap class and performing in a recital; taking piano lessons; creating a piece of art that I actually hung on my wall; travelling with a group of near strangers; attending a conference on my own; and starting a blog.

This is my creation that hangs on the wall.

This is my creation that hangs on the wall.

20. I have a couple of poems published in anthologies, and a few articles published in magazines and journals.

21. It’s impossible to count the number of books I’ve read in my lifetime. I love books. They are the things that I haven’t been able to let go of, despite the weight of moving them. I have slowly weened out my collection, but it always grows again.

That’s all for today. It’s getting harder.

What are some thing that you’ve done. Period?

 

Dear United Airlines

To Whom It May Concern at United Airlines,

My father passed away on December 19, 2012.

Why does this concern you? Because I was supposed to leave to visit my in-laws in Hawaii on December 20, 2012. When my husband called to change my flight, as I sat crying with my daughter, he was told that we would pay the flight change fee and be reimbursed. He WAS NOT told that my return flight would be cancelled as well. He WAS NOT told that I would have to pay for the difference in fares, to get back onto a flight that I had already booked.

When he called, we weren’t sure when the funeral would be so we were given a number and told to call back when we had more information.

When I called back, after my husband and my daughter had already made it onto the original flight, I learned of the cruelty of the way you operate. What gave you the right to cancel my return flight, and then ask me to pay an additional $1300-$1500 to change my itinerary? How dare you charge me for a flight I already paid for?

I don’t usually cry, scream and swear to people doing their jobs. This time I did. I lost my father and your policies didn’t have any respect that life happens. The poor man on the other end managed to find me a flight which would only cost me an additional $200+ but left and arrived at evil times, and wasn’t with my family. In my opinion, YOU OWE ME that money.

I have never understood how airlines get away with over booking flights. It’s not legal to sell the same seat to two different patrons at the theatre, and on the rare occasions when that happens, a new seat is always found. It’s not legal to sell the same car to two different people at the same time. How can you legally sell seats to many people at the same time? How can you legally try to have someone pay again for seats she already bought?

As I flew, I watched your advertisements about your new and improved plane. I also witnessed the most unpleasant, unsmiling flight attendants I’ve seen in a long time. I sat in your uncomfortable seats as your expensive food moved down the aisles. I paid the fees for luggage, only to have to wait for almost an hour upon arriving in Hawaii for my luggage to appear. On the last flight, as I returned home, my headphones didn’t work properly (the channel they play on wouldn’t come in although others would)  so I couldn’t watch the movies. I suppose I could have asked for help, but this was also the flight with the unpleasant, unsmiling, and quite bitchy flight attendants.

You grow bigger every day, and I realize that gives you power. You don’t care what my voice says. You don’t care about my fares, because I don’t pay for first class. You should.

Kindness matters. From this day forward, if I can avoid flying with you, I will, even with your innovations in aircraft. I will also tell everyone I know to choose another airline. I may not have the power of an airline, but I have the power of my words, and I have the power to choose.

I choose to fly with people who respect all of their passengers, not just the ones who can afford first class tickets.

Sincerely,

Lisa A. Kramer, A Very Dissatisfied Customer

United Airlines

 

 

 

Carrying Paradise Inside

I have learned some important lessons over the past few weeks.

The lessons began with the horror of Newtown, when I started to question where we’ve gone wrong to create a world that is full of so much cruelty, horror, and unspeakable acts. I learned from a childhood friend, neighbor or a child who was lost, who spent the days protecting his neighbor’s and his town from the predatory journalists, armed only with a video camera and a caring heart.

Who would have thought the little blonde boy I used to babysit would grow up to be such a kind, caring man.

Who would have thought the little blonde boy I used to babysit would grow up to be such a kind, caring man.

The lessons continued with the passing of my father; the first time in my life that I really had to face the reality of our mortality, and let go of somebody I love.

Photo by Steve Kramer

Photo by Steve Kramer

Then I found myself in Hawaii, spending the holiday’s with my husband’s family. Despite the fact that I’ve spent many holidays with them, there’s always a certain amount of awkwardness in my time here. This year, that feeling was multiplied by the sadness I carried in my heart. I found myself trying to hide from:

  • the awkward reactions from people who did not know what to say to someone who just lost her father
  • the even more awkward reactions from people who simply didn’t say anything and avoided the topic all together.
  • Nathan’s father’s sometimes naive (although I believe unintentional) anti-Semitism
  • the overwhelming holiday spirit that I simply did not feel.
  • the somewhat hypocritical attitude of people who claim the virtues of living in paradise, but never really take advantage of the place they live in
  • a constant clash of cultures

As I’ve been experiencing all this, I slowly began to absorb the lessons that surround me. For example, paradise is only paradise if you take the time to appreciate its beauty.

Sunset at the luau.

Sunset at the luau.

You can find paradise on an island, but you can also find it everywhere. If you spend all your time complaining about traffic, or focusing on other things like work and money, it doesn’t matter what the sunset looks like or the weather feels like–because you won’t see it.

I’m learning that paradise is actually something you carry with you.

It can be found in the smiles of children, who learn that new friendships can be formed over the joy of hanging upside down.

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It can be found in the moments when we stop, relax, and simply enjoy the sun.

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It can be found in those moments where we run, dance, and fly.

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It can be found spending time with old friends.

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Paradise is the place where you stop and realize that the small moments, and the inexpensive pleasures filled with love and laughter are the ones that truly matter. My wish for all in the coming year is that you take a moment to stop and celebrate the life you have.

It’s simply too short not to enjoy with all the passion and love you carry inside.

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A palm with holiday lights.

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Dolphins know how to be joyous!

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Sometimes being different just makes life even more special.

Simple joys, like blowing bubbles and swimming through them, are the things that make life worth living.

 

In Honor of Love Surpassing Time

Ashes drift swiftly
over ocean waves
to settle down
into the deep
where lovers meet.

Uncle Gene has passed
to join his beloved
Auntie Helen
in a lover’s dance over the waves.

Married after many marriages
their love grew strong
supporting each other
through unprecedented loss of a beloved daughter
and a son-in-law  who died later of a broken heart.

Their love blessed our marriage
Great Aunt Helen only approved
my marriage to her favorite niece’s son
after tasting the magic
of Mom’s applesauce spice cake
made with my nervously loving hands
in the desert of Arizona.
Together they moved to
beloved Hawaii
to spend their waning years
in beauty
in color
in peace.

But Auntie Helen
left too soon
her ashes flying
and sinking
beyond Gene’s reach.

Gene lived on
with loving hands supporting him
until the time came
for him to let go.

95 years old.

His ashes will soon
drift swiftly
over ocean waves
to settle down
into the deep
where lovers meet.

RIP Uncle Gene 1917-2012

Life is About Learning: Celebrating Fabulous Friends III

I know a lot of intelligent people. Since I’ve spent most of my life connected in some way with academia, I have often been surrounded by people who blow me away with the way their minds work.

But this morning I had a little revelation, life is not about what you know but about continuing to learn.

While I’ve met a lot of intelligent people who can wax poetic about everything under the sun, many of them don’t interest me. I find myself zoning out when it becomes obvious that the person I am talking to is more concerned with showing off his/her knowledge and sounding intelligent than contributing to a conversation and being open to learning something new.

In the end, the people who remain part of life, the people who I count as friends are the ones who see the world as a place to learn something new every day, and then share that knowledge with others as they seek more learning. So today, as the third part of my (hopefully ongoing) series that I call “Celebrating Fabulous Friends” I would like to celebrate some of the learner/teachers I’ve met in my life.  (For the first two installments read Celebrating Fabulous Friends and Night Marchers in the Bathroom.)

Nancy Lum, World Adventurer

Nancy is in the middle, with myself, my sister Deb, and her friend Karen celebrating my wedding.

Nancy and I met in Japan. She was there teaching for the JET program, and I was teaching for a private Language School. While I’m sure we met when she first got there, we didn’t become close until my last year in Japan, when I discovered an amazing person who had a passion for learning all she could about the world. Our friendship has lasted, with Nancy visiting me whenever she can in all of my various locations. She came to my wedding in Hawaii, while friends who I had known longer were unwilling to make the trip. While she wasn’t part of the wedding party, officially, she stepped up and helped in ways that made her truly the maid of honor.

Nancy returned from Japan to her home in Canada for a short time to get a masters in ESL. She then went back to our home in Okayama and has been there ever since. She takes every opportunity to travel and see the world, learning as much as she can about the places she visits and sharing her knowledge through the eyes of her camera. She and I keep fantasizing about traveling together on some wonderful adventure, but it hasn’t happened (yet). Maybe I should see if she wants to come to Slovakia. 😉

Anyway, I include Nancy in my list of Fabulous Friends because she cares and shares and is always learning more. When she visits, she wants to go out and explore the world. The last time I saw her, when she visited me in Durango, CO, she was distracted by news that her sister was in the hospital, but even then she carried her camera and shared adventures with me and my family. I am so honored to count this wonderful, intelligent, creative, learner among my friends.

Jackie Haltom, Inspirational Artist

Figuring out the hands for a piece of art.

I’ve known Jackie for only a year. We met when Sarah started taking art lessons in Independence.  We probably socialized for the first time last Halloween as we took Sarah out trick-or-treating with Jackie’s girls and other kids in the neighborhood.  However, a relationship that started slowly blossomed into a friendship of mutual support and encouragement. Jackie helped me discover the courage to express myself in a new artistic way, and the results are in the header of this blog. Jackie also took on the challenge with me of learning how to share our love of art and creativity with a different population, as you can read about in “Appropriate Age Appropriateness.” Without Jackie, I would not have had the courage to try to self-publish (although that project is still slowly moving forward). Jackie inspires me because she is continually learning, admitting what she doesn’t know, searching for more knowledge, and challenging the status quo. She lives and breathes art and recognizes how important the arts are to our culture–so she strives to share that passion with others by encouraging them to find their inner artists. Jackie helped me through a complex transition in my life, and I am grateful she has become my friend.

Jackie inspired another fabulous friend, Heather of Little Red Henry (link in my blog roll) to paint this wonderful creation.

There you have it, a couple of other examples of the incredible people you can meet throughout your life if you are simply open to learning about the world around you.

What have you learned today? Who have you met that you would like to celebrate?

Here's a beautiful piece by Jackie.


Night Marchers in the Bathroom Help Me Discover Another Fabulous Friend

When New Friends Meet

“Oh my God, Lisa! You have to get in here!”

The cry came from the bathroom of my apartment in Hawaii. It was a strange cry coming from a relatively new friend, also named Lisa, who was taking a shower at my place when a day of getting to know each other better became one long string of adventures.

The next thing I know, she bursts out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, gorgeous red hair streaming water. “I’m serious Lisa, you’ve got to hear this.”

I hesitantly follow her back into the bathroom where the shower is still running.  “What is it?’ I ask. Everything seemed the same as when I had taken my shower just a short time earlier.

“Shh! Listen, can you hear that drumming?” I listened carefully, and suddenly tuned in on what sounded like distant rhythmic drumming. It wasn’t water in the pipes. It wasn’t a drummer practicing a set. It was the very distant drums of ritual.

“What is that?” I asked.

“It’s the Night Marchers.”

“The what?”

“The Night Marchers. And I think we are lucky that we were taking showers, because it probably saved our lives.”

“What?”

A true friendship formed as she explained the legend; a friendship that started when Nathan introduced me to one of his best high school friends and has lasted through the years as she became a truly fabulous woman, mother, and citizen of this earth.

 

This story reveals how my fascination with the supernatural opened the door to another amazing person in my life who I wish to celebrate.

The Legend of the Night Marchers

The Night Marchers are

ghostly apparitions of a band of beings who move with purpose to the beat of primitive pounding drums. Some say they are armed spirit warriors en route to or from battle, toting archaic weaponry and clothed in decorated helmets and cloaks. Other accounts tell of high-ranking alii (ruler) spirits being guided to places of high importance or to welcome new warriors to join in battle. (http://www.to-hawaii.com/legends/night-marchers.php)

In Hawaiian legend, to look upon the Night Marchers and meet them in the eye means death, as the Marchers take them with you on their lonely march. However, you can save yourself from this fate by averting your eyes and crouching down. Or, according to Lisa on that particular day, “they won’t take you if you are naked.”

Good thing, isn’t it, since they seemed to be moving through my shower?

Lasting Friendship Formed

I’m not 100% sure of this, but I think our meeting with the Night Marcher’s came on, perhaps, the second day of our friendship. Nathan and Lisa had been best friends in high school. When she came back to the island for a visit after Nathan and I started dating, he introduced us, and within minutes it was like we had known each other forever.   Nathan was not with us on the day of the Night Marchers, I believe we had decided we just needed to get to know each other better and have a girls’ day. It became one of those days where you plan on doing one thing, and then you add on another, and another, until all of a sudden you’ve had a complete day full of adventures. I don’t remember all the details of that day (although I do recall a cop trying to pull us over for an out-of-date sticker or something, and Lisa managing to talk us out of it because her dad was a policeman and the cop recognized her–I was impressed).

I don’t know if the spooky beginnings cemented our relationship or what, but I have been honored to know Lisa these many years, and to count her among my closest (although long-distant) friends. Lisa is one of those amazing women that fights for what she believes in, and especially for justice, equality, and the rights of children. She used to work for Teach for America, then went on to pursue journalism, where she eloquently wrote about education. She then moved onto working for the public education system. Throughout it all, she has provided a passionate pursuit for change and the importance of an educational system that truly succeeds. She hasn’t always had it easy, as she became the victim of politics (as often happens to good people). But, despite the struggles, she always keeps a positive attitude and a caring heart. When I last spent time with her (she’s the one who took me for my first pedicure) she was trying to alleviate tensions between an offended rabbi and some people who unintentionally insulted him through naiveté. (I’m not sure the end result, I’ll have to find out).

Her husband, Matt, is also an incredible person, advocating for and supporting first-generation college students to help them succeed. Together they represent a truly caring, intelligent couple that wants nothing more than to live a life full of love, and share that love with others.

Lisa and Matt

Lisa and I are more than just friends. In many ways we are sisters, and I am so lucky for that. I was there when her now husband Matt proposed to her. While I wasn’t there when she gave birth to her first child a few months before I gave birth to mine, those two girls have since met and immediately became fast friends. In many ways, I think the spirit world has intervened to make souls come together who were destined to meet.

Instant friends, sisters at heart.

It just goes to show you that eerie things might happen, but perhaps messages from beyond are messages intended to help, not to harm. I’m sure Lisa and I would have been friends anyway, but it didn’t hurt to get a little nudge from the Night Marchers. (By the way, I only heard them one more time in that bathroom, and I listened for them all the time).

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?

Too Scattered to Write

Have you ever had one of those days when your mind is going a mile a minute and you cannot accomplish a single thing because of it?

Today is one of those days for me.

The list of things I could be doing or might be doing grows, and yet I fritter around like a hummingbird in a field of flowers, unable to rest, to calm, to think, to breathe or to write.

And, in the typical irony of fate,  today seems to be the day that I should be producing a high-quality fabulous post to thrill the masses. Why? Well, yesterday I had one of those randomly successful days on the blog, with the most visits ever for me–and today, without me posting, the numbers are high. Don’t ask me? I’ll never understand it.

But, instead of creating something wonderful and spectacular I find myself babbling a mile a minute without a single clear thought in my head.

So, welcome to all my new readers. Please come back soon, when sanity prevails. For now, I think I need to take a few deep breaths and try to calm down.

If i could, I would go sit by the ocean to soak in some calm. But for now a picture will have to do.

 

_______________________________

Today’s Quote: 

‎”Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.”
Bruce Barton

Wishing the Power of Thought Was Enough

I was prepared to write a completely different post this morning when my husband walked in and said “Japan had an 8.9 earthquake and it caused tsunamis that are heading this way.”

Immediately my thoughts jumped to my friends in Japan, the ones I’ve actually met and the ones I have met in this virtual world. I jumped out of bed to e-mail people I might be able to reach and search for amblerangel’s e-mail, and found her post instead. I hope her kids made it home safely and all is still well with her.

I read the post out loud to my husband and started sobbing. Why? I think it is the feeling of not being able to help. When I lived in Japan, the big Northridge earthquake hit California, where my sister was living at the time. I remember the panic I felt when I could not reach her for hours to find out if she was okay. I remember the sadness when I learned that one of my childhood friends was killed in that earthquake.

Now I worry for my friends in Japan, and Australia, and New Zealand. Now my husband and I are on tsunami watch in Hawaii, where his family still lives and we both went to school (I got my MFA at UHM). We will be keeping track all day until we know they are safe.

It is frustrating to know that there is very little I can do but pray and send loving thoughts out into the world.  I wish that was enough, but I know it is not.

Feeling Foreign Abroad and Feeling Foreign At “Home”

On and interesting post at Broadside called Feeling Foreign Caitlin asked at the end:

“Have you ever lived outside your native land? Did you enjoy it?

How has it changed you?”

I’ve thought about those questions a lot lately, because of my search for a place that I can call home. I cannot really call this new location home. I’ve found people here that fit my idea of home, but I still feel like a foreigner in this place.

Now, you may ask, how can you feel like a foreigner? It’s America, you are American.

Well, here’s the thing. I’ve had many wonderful experiences in my life, including the opportunity to live in a variety of places. My first big move was to Okayama, Japan, where I ended up living for three years. I was a gaijin but I loved every minute of it. It wasn’t easy; sometimes it was difficult. And, when I chose to leave, it was time to leave. But, whenever I think about what place I want to call home, images of Japan pop into my head. I don’t think I want to live there, but there was something about my experience there that made it feel more like home to me than any place. Perhaps it was simply that I became a true, individual adult in that complicated country. I lived alone, I supported myself, and I learned to survive despite language and cultural barriers. I am not saying that every moment was perfect. Sometimes it was hard. Sometimes it was challenging. Sometimes the cultural differences seemed impossible to overcome. But somehow that country and that experience felt like finding home.

From Japan, I moved to Hawaii for graduate school. There I was haole and I have to say being haole was a lot more difficult than being gaijin. Perhaps it was because Hawaii is part of the United States, so I expected to feel like I belonged, but I didn’t. Sometimes I made more glaring errors there than I did in Japan. Sometimes I felt more alone. Even now, when we go back to visit Nathan’s family, I don’t feel completely comfortable. I love it there, but it never felt quite like home. Maybe if we actually moved there that would change, but I don’t know.

Between then and now I’ve lived in several other states. Some felt more home-like than others, but I still haven’t found home. And now, after moving to Kansas, I again feel more foreign than I should. Why? Well, I am a liberal person in a sea of conservatives. I am a Jew in an ocean of Christians. I am “different” in ways that I can’t quite explain.

Now don’t get me wrong, the people here are warm and wonderful, it is all the way I feel. I feel foreign. For some reason, I feel more foreign than I have before, and I don’t know how to guide myself through it. When I was in Japan, my errors were often seen as “cute”, because they were made by someone making an honest effort to be respectful of the culture. Somehow that doesn’t work here. Of course I respect the differences between me and other people, but I can’t just pass off disagreements as my not understanding the culture. Because the culture is not that foreign, but in some ways it is.

Is it possible then, that “feeling foreign” is a state of mind?

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