A Whirlwind Trip of Epic Proportions.

Where do I begin?

How do I write about the incredible journey that lasted only eleven days, but contained a lifetime of learning?

I could write hundreds of words about the beauty of the country, which incorporates incredible architecture from various periods, fabulous colors, sculpture from Communism, warm lighting, and graffiti that verges on high art.

My first night in Bratislava.

I could write hundreds of words about the foods. Warm, rich, filling, and definitely not heart healthy–each meal offered a mouth-watering treat. From my first Goulash to the national dish of Bryzna Halushki (a pasta smothered in sheep cheese) I enjoyed every mouthful.

Mary, about to indulge in some halusky

I could write thousands of words about the people: the talented, caring, intelligent, fabulous and fun group I was traveling with; the kind, giving, sharing people of the country; the lovely couple who owned the Privat in Levocia, who saved my trip when he found a way to fix my glasses on Three Kings Day when there was no hope that I would be able to go out and find a tiny screw; the man we called grandpa who liked to make sure we had a blazing fire in Zdiar; our guide/interpreter Richard (pronounced Ree-kard) who landed the gig at the last minute but accepted and embraced our craziness; the women who have dedicated their lives to improving conditions for the Roma population; and the complex, fabulous, friendly, musical and slightly intimidating Roma men, women and children.

Some of the gang preparing breakfast in Zdiar

I could share some of the creative writing I began on the trip (mostly poetry) or write about the complex history and cultural legacy that I learned about through lectures, through listening, and through observing the infinite details of the world around me.

Looking at the sky from the Cage of Shame, where bad girls got sent for 24 hours for walking around at night without an appropriate chaperone.

I could write hundreds and hundreds of words about my personal journey and “Aha!” moments. Or simply copy out passages out of my journal and the words I wrote along the way.

I could do all of these things and more, but I still do not know where to begin. The actual trip is over, and I am home, but my personal journey has just started. Who wants to join me?

To be continued . . .

Oh What a Wacky Wild Year

Reflections on a Year Gone By

While to me, I feel like the year begins in the fall, when the scent of apples fills the air and everyone heads back to school, it’s that time of year when I look back to see the journey I have taken since last New Year’s Eve.

And what a ride it has been. As I began reflecting on this post, at first I had a hard time remembering the past year, as so much and so little has happened. But, this blog serves one fabulous purpose if no other, it helps me look at my life as I live it as well as I reflect on past experiences. Thus my year already lives here in words and pictures. That might be a good reason for my blog!

Sitting at my sister’s table for a Christmas dinner with her beau, it suddenly struck me that I sat there last year, as a visitor. Last year, we drove through snow with two dogs in tow, to spend our winter vacation in Massachusetts with my family, hoping Sarah would get a little quality time with Papa before his inevitable slide into Alzheimer’s took him further away from us.

Last year Sarah and Papa read together.

This year, he sat on the couch watching It’s a Wonderful Life while everyone else. This is perhaps one of the saddest changes this year has brought.

My Dad seems so alone this year. It is very hard to reach him right now.

We started the year in a little town in Kansas, which offered a lot of interesting experiences but never quite felt like home.

Last year began with me planning to teach a new class (for that college) Comp I as well as another section of Theater Appreciation and a one student course in Stage Makeup. It also began my first foray into directing a musical, School House Rock, Live!

I wish I could say the semester was smooth sailing, but that would be a lie. From battles with the system over which was more important the arts or sports, to my worst teaching semester in a classroom ruled by disrespect and testosterone, the semester left a lot to be desired. We also faced the challenges of an extremely overworked husband , a marriage facing some difficult times, a daughter who was very homesick, and my utter confusion about who and what I am

Highlights of the Year

Moon Lady overlooks the coziness.

  • I joined Postaday2011 which helped me meet so many wonderful people, and get a little more focused with writing. I quit in April, when I realized that it was becoming too much and felt the need to focus my energy differently. I still post more often than not, and am still working on the balance, but it is getting better.
  • I met, talked to, and worked with many marvelous women (and men) this year, including one of my favorite playwrights, Marsha Norman. I am always inspired by people who are talented, passionate, and caring; especially those who try to encourage and support others rather than cut people down (and I met several of those over the past few years, so this was refreshing).
  • I started working with an incredible group of adults to create a drama/art program for them. To help prepare, I participated in a fabulous workshop on Drama Therapy which reminded me of how powerful the arts are, and of an interest that I had all but forgotten. This led to a month-log project in June that I found inspirational and hope to be able to revisit in other locations).
  • I went to a conference in Seattle where I found more inspiration as well as more confusion about my own goals in life.
  • May and June were in some ways the busiest and craziest months. Nathan left for his summer job as Technical Director of Okoboji Summer Theatre leaving me as a single Mom. During that time, I was stage manager for a production of Jungle Book where Sarah performed as part of the elephant chorus, I also worked on the project I mentioned above, built Kaa the Snake for the production, and planned for a trip to visit Durango, CO (our former home). I spent hours and hours driving during the month of may, little suspecting that more driving was to come.
  • Eventually Sarah and I joined Nathan in Okoboji, which is always a complex experience for me, as I struggle to find focus there. This year, to help give me purpose, I volunteered to assist at an arts camp, where I ended up co-teaching (and in some ways saving) a class in stage makeup. I’m hoping  to be hired by that program this year.
  • I spent the rest of the summer writing, thinking, dreaming, helping when I was needed and basically beginning the fallow stage that I have been in for a while. Then, of course, everything turned topsy-turvy. Nathan was offered a position  in Massachusetts about  one week before the summer theater gig was over and we would head back to Kansas.  That gave us about one week to pack, one week to travel, and only three weeks to find a new home. Somehow we pulled it all together and the world shifted again. Since September, my year has basically been finding my way in this new “old” home.
  • We managed to visit old friends, and meet new ones while carrying our entire life in the back of a truck and heading into the challenge of Irene

Sarah and Kathy inside Sara’s lovely garden.

  • The last few months have found us settling into our new home, and me continuing my search for employment and purpose. I also taught a couple of classes for kids and that’s about it.

A Year of Slow Moving Complexity

If I had to title this year for myself, I would call it either “The Year of the Inner Journey” or “The Year of Contrasts.”

Why? Because through all of this I have been doing a lot of soul-searching, a lot of writing, a lot of reading, a lot of dreaming. I am in a year of moving slowly toward a destination that I still don’t see. I can’t say that it has been a year of achievement, but at the same time I have achieved a lot. At the beginning of 2011, I assumed we would end it in Kansas, still finding the balance between the joy I had in projects and my inability to feel at home.

It has been a year of super highs and energetic projects, followed by super lows and confusion.

It has been my year of questioning and wondering, as I move on into the unknown.

What will the next year bring?

As I write this, I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions. I don’t make them anymore, as I find they set a bar high where I then beat myself up if I fail. I’m already hard enough on myself, don’t you think.

So, instead, I will be starting  2012 with an adventure! On New Year’s Eve I will begin the journey to Slovakia. Who knows what will follow after a beginning like that?

Given the craziness of my life, anything can happen. I guess all I can do is enjoy the journey.

What are your hopes for 2012?

The Path Forward (100 word challenge)

As you can tell, my posts seem to be following a theme this week. Please forgive. ;)

The sun shone but could not penetrate the shadowy darkness under the trees, except in tiny ribbons reflecting through dancing leaves. Elaina could only see a few feet down the rough dirt path. She hesitated, looking back, before entering the dimness, fearful of what lay ahead. Four steps in and the silence grew overpowering. Her skin tingled with the feeling of eyes watching, hidden in the depths of the silent trees. “You can do this,” she whispered to herself. “Your future lies ahead.” Slowly she moved deeper into the mysterious trees, accompanied only by the knowledge that this was the path meant for her.

Thanks to Teresita, who managed to provide another perfect image to reflect the thoughts I am trying to portray with this post. Visit her original post for a lovely walk in the woods today.


On the Road Again . . . Into the Unknown

I’ve always had the secret fantasy of becoming a singer in a band, sharing music with the masses as I travel from town to town. I have the hidden urge to be a song writer, but that would require me to become much more fluent in the language of music then I currently am. Of course, I can read it a little better now, since I decided to start studying piano last year, but I lost the fluency of my youth.

But this post isn’t about music, or about my secret dreams. It is about journeys and our path through life.  I would have to argue that “journey of life” is one of my guiding metaphors, but I’ve forgotten that recently. In my desire to “find home” or find a place to belong, I’ve forgotten the motto I adopted earlier this year in a post called “The Journey” .  [Some days I AMAZE myself with my creativity and originality :P ]

We are about to embark on the next journey.  Literally and figuratively. If I can ever get my family moving, we will begin the 8 hour drive back to Independence, KS. Then we begin the job of packing our little house up to begin the journey to the next phase of our lives in Massachusetts. We still don’t know for sure where we will live once we get there (but I have found a rental I hope). I still have no idea what work will come my way once we get there (except for a definite class in the spring).

We say farewell to our summer home, which is always bittersweet. Okoboji Summer Theater is a unique and magical microcosm, that is almost a fantasy. We are surrounded by people who love creating good theater. We live and breathe quality work. We do not need to worry about food, or shopping, or any of the basic chores of survival (beyond laundry and cleaning up) and we can walk out the door and be at our work. In many ways, this is heaven.

For me, this summer has been complex, to say the least, but overall rewarding. My family hopes to return next summer, and I do to.  I only hope that, in that return, I can feel more confident in my own purpose here and contribute a little more. I have already applied to teach for the ArtsLIVE camp that I helped out at this summer, and if that comes through I’ll feel more confident about the whole thing.

But again, this is not about our summer, it is about life’s journeys.

Today our journey continues. I wonder where it leads?

The Journey of Shared Stories

Will forests, like this one on San Juan Island...

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“The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.” (Jean Shinoda Bolen, Crossing to Avalon 273)

Yesterday I shared a dark gray part of my story. This, along with a few other recent posts,  triggered a reaction of concern from several people who care about me. It also triggered people who sent me colors of yellow, orange, and brown–colors to warm the grayness.

The responses touched me.

Today I finished reading Crossing to Avalon and I had a revelation, similar to the one a few posts back, that I am writing for a reason.  We all write for a reason, as expressed simply in this poem by a fellow blogger; but sometimes my reasons become unclear to myself. Yesterday I felt like I had revealed too much, shared too much pain on an open forum, raised too much concern.

But today I understand. I am on a journey and currently that journey is not one of light:

Periods of darkness, times in the forest and the underworld, are times when we are in the cauldron, more aware than during ordinary times of the necessity and possibility of regeneration and healing, in the place of surrender and choice. (Bolen 272)

Right now I am in the middle of the forest. But that is not a bad place to be, it is where I need to be. Part of the journey through the forest, however, includes sharing my story. Through sharing stories we build connections with each other and can help each other find our way from darkness to light.

So I apologize if my words lately have taken a darker turn, but they are stories I need to share. I am sorry if this raises concerns for people who love me, but that love is helping me move forward to where I need to go.

I cherish the stories that other people share here: those that make me laugh, those make me cry, and those that make me think or feel. I hope that my stories, in some way, help you on whatever part of the journey you are writing.

Thank you all for sharing stories, they are life blood.

The So-Called “Real World”

Universum - C. Flammarion, Holzschnitt, Paris ...

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What is the “real world” of which people speak?

When you graduate from high school, people say now it is time to move into the real world. But then you go to college, and that is definitely not real.

When you graduate college, people say “welcome to the real world.” But then, if you are like me, you search for the job, the life, the home, the career that makes you feel real. My search continues to this day, and I’ve been out of college for a long time.

Does the world become real when you get married? Or have children? Sometimes I feel that those facts are the most surreal of the real. For me, while family is comfort, it is also this bizarre commitment to be with people even when sometimes that may not feel right. Watching my daughter grow sometimes feels like watching a stranger infused with growing and learning magic. Some days seem real, but others seem like I’m walking in a story of somebody else’s making. This does not mean that I don’t love my family, I do, but if this defines reality than I don’t know what is real.

Is going to work part of the real world? There are days when it feels like all we do is eat, sleep, poop, and work. The work never ends. Even for someone like me, who often has multiple short-term projects going on, it sometimes feels like an endless cycle. Is this what reality is all about?

I don’t believe in the real world, anymore. I think it is a term created by people who want to define reality in one certain way. Just like those in our country who believe that we all have to live  speaking the same language, believing the same things, not deviating from the “norm.” I’ve never agreed with those people. I’ll never be normal. Actually, I think that here is no norm. There is no reality.

As of this moment, I am embracing my non-real world. I don’t quite know what that means, but I believe that I have to carve out a life for myself (and my family) that truly makes me happy. I cannot let “real world” things, like work, money, etc. suck all of the joy out of living. It is simply not worth it.

The Journey

wichita-ks-j2004tornado.jpg

“The Journey is the reward” I’ve been thinking about that quote ever since I saw it engraved in an overpass in Wichita, KS the other day. I realize that, despite the fact that my life so far has been a wondrous journey, I have to train myself to live by this quote. For some reason, whether it has been taught to me or is ingrained in my personality, I seem to always pursue outside vindication. If I don’t get the award, the accolades, or the recognition than I view my life as a failure. But, if I can change my mindset to view the journey as the reward, then my life would be completely different and every day would be a joy. Even the simple days where nothing really happens can be part of the journey. My time here, on this bizarre adventure to Kansas will simply be part of my life’s journey; part of the untold but rewarding story that is me. Now, the question is how to really make myself focus on that? How do I let go of this need to be recognized and rewarded by external factors? How do I truly learn to embrace the journey?

Maybe I need to remind myself where this journey has taken me so far:

  • I learned my passion for words (reading, writing, and spoken) at an early age, and I still value them.
  • I learned my love for languages at an early age. Since then I have studied Japanese, French, Spanish, Hebrew, and a smattering of other languages. I can learn more, and that will be a reward.
  • I lived on my own in Japan for three years, and I thrived there.
  • I wanted to be a director, and I have been a director. So what if I’m not famous. I’ve been privileged to work on some wonderful productions (as well as some not so wonderful ones) with passionate, creative people . . . that is a reward.
  • I have always been empathetic and that has led me in so many directions as a mentor and a friend. While I may find it difficult to meet new people (I am secretly shy) my true friends are treasures that I value. They are the people who will stay with me for the rest of my life, even if time and distance separate us.
  • I have learned that I can do anything that I set my mind to. My journey has taken so many twists and turns, and I cannot see clearly where it is heading. But, with each challenge I’ve learned new skills, and embraced everything. I may not have loved every task assigned to me, but I do love learning new things, and not being limited to one label. My reward is flexibility, and that is something I will treasure always.
  • I’ve always wanted to write. I have now had a few articles published. I have also written several stories and poems that have yet to find a home. My proudest moment was completing my book for middle grade readers. It may never get published, but those I have shared it with love it. And, I am proud of myself for doing it. I believe the next part of my journey will include another venture into writing, even if I don’t know where it will take me. The words are the reward.
  • I found someone kind and caring, who loves me despite my insecurities and general craziness. Together we have created a wonderful little girl who has the potential to live an incredible journey herself. I hope that she learns to embrace the journey, but I know she won’t if I don’t truly embrace it.

When I look at my life this way, I see that I have lived an incredible one. There have been ups and downs. There has been good and bad. There have been times of boredom and times of excitement.  I’ve faced sadness and I’ve lived joy. My journey is not over –it has truly just begun. That IS my reward.

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