Celebrating Projects

This (long-ish) list of mine is making me take trips into memory and thing pop into my head. I find myself remembering with a smile or a groan some of the interesting and obscure creative projects I’ve participated in, with people of all ages. So today, for #32, I celebrate some of those moments.

History Comes to Life

The first one that popped into my head has led me on a futile search for some record of another amazing person in my life. When I was a Sophomore in high school, I had a wonderful teacher named Rita Smith (who would a few years later be named the Time Magazine teacher of the year). She taught social studies, and as a class project we created a living chess tournament using characters from history (The War of the Roses) as our chess pieces. I, along with a fellow student, wrote the script for the tournament, which we then submitted for the state history competition, and made it to the semi-finals I believe. We all performed the living chess play/tournament in Boston, dressed in costume and enjoying every moment. This was one of the moment I saw the power of theatre as a teaching tool, but also the influence of an incredible and creative teacher on making learning an enjoyable and memorable experience. To this day, I strive to create opportunities like that in everything I do. I spent the day trying to find out where Rita Smith is now, but haven’t found any information. I’d like to say thank you, if I could. (Any Brockton High School alums who may read this . . . do you know where she is?)

Mystery on a Train

When I lived in Vermont, one summer I taught a summer camp at the Burlington Center of the Arts that was called “Mystery on the Flyer.” The kids who participated created a murder mystery that we performed on a moving train in Burlington. It was fun. It was fabulous. It was an adventure.

We met all the characters in the train station first, then we got on the train and the mystery began.

We met all the characters in the train station first, then we got on the train and the mystery began.

G.O.A.L Reached

While living in Durango, I worked on several projects geared toward grades 5-8 that I found rewarding. One was the Girl’s Opportunities in Arts and Leadership, where I helped some middle school girls find their voices through writing and onstage. I love mentoring girls. I also worked with a group f 5th graders as an Improvisation coach for a Destination ImagiNation competition which combines science, theatre and social studies. They placed fourth in the state and were a wonderful group of kids.

Creativity is for Everyone

In Kansas I worked on a program that I’ve written about elsewhere in this blog, providing an arts/drama workshop for a group of adults with developmental disabilities. That will always remain one of the most powerful experiences of my life.

Combating Hatred

If you read any of my posts about Slovakia, and working with the Roma you know how special and influential that experience was, and how much I hope to find a way to continue with projects like that.

Students Who Think

Over the years, I’ve managed to inspire or challenge some of my students to take their learning beyond the classroom. There was the one who decided to create a piece of invisible theatre in the campus center protesting the abuse of women around the world; there was the class (last semester) who decided to do a flash mob of sorts exploring the issue of sleep deprivation and stress around exam time.

There were Honors students who became inspired by something I taught  and pursued that as their project.  There was the Japanese student in my conversation class who took my discussion of poetry back to his college classroom to share. There was the student who took a chance and applied for a transfer at her dream school, partially because of a discussion with me (she’ll be graduating from Emerson in May). The list of students who have inspired me because of their passion, and of whom I feel like I’ve helped inspire as well, is ever-changing and growing. I’m honored to have been even a small part of their journey.

While I still sometimes look at my career and say, what have I done? I don’t have a big name in my field. I’m not famous. I never became the well-known director I had dreamed of becoming, it’s these smaller moments and short-term projects (a list which could contain many other examples) that I cherish.

What are some of the work/project experiences in your life that you hold dear?

Squished Breasts, Technology, and Other Medical Mysteries

The arrow on this mammogram points to a small ...

The arrow on this mammogram points to a small cancerous lesion. A lesion is an area of abnormal tissue change (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just returned from my yearly moments of torture, that  I refer to as getting my boobs squished, but more academically minded folk would call a mammogram.

Boy was it fun.

Actually, though, while not the most comfortable experience of my life,  I have to say that the worst part has nothing to do with getting your flesh and muscles smooshed between two plates while you stand in a contorted position and try to fantasize that you are taking beauty shots. No, that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part comes from the fact that I moved last summer.

What? Confused readers everywhere (well the few of you who are reading).

As you know, when you move, especially from one state to another you must find new medical care. First, however, you have to wait the endless amounts of time before your full medical benefits kick in (if you even have medical insurance) then you have to go through the torture of finding a doctor when you have no clue. I kept putting it off for a couple of reasons, one laziness, and the other that I’ve had to leave two wonderful doctors in the past two years and I just didn’t want to go through it again. To be fair, the first one that I left passed away just before we moved from Colorado, which meant I would have had to choose a new one anyway. The second fabulous doctor quit the practice just after I moved from Kansas, which means the same thing. Maybe I’m bad luck on doctors.

Anyway, I finally realized that preventive medicine was the better way to go, and got myself together to get a doctor. Of course, there was only one accepting patients in my area. One, not so exciting, kind of personality-less doctor. I’m giving her a chance. Maybe she will warm up, but meanwhile that’s what I got.

In preparation for my first visit I had contacted the prior medical group hoping to be able to walk in carrying my complete medical history and hand it over.

“Can I please have my medical records sent to me?”

“No, we can only send them to your doctor after they have you sign a release.”

WHAT?!  THESE ARE MY RECORDS, WHY CAN’T I HAVE ACCESS TO THEM?!!

I didn’t feel like fighting that battle, so I gave in and waited until my first appointment and sent away for records. That made for an exciting appointment with Dr. Personable.

“I don’t have any records of you.”

“No, I have to have them sent.”

“Well, what medications were you on?”

“I can tell you a few.”

“Why were you on those ones? They don’t help cholesterol or blood pressure?”

“Um, because that’s what my doctor told me to take.”

“Well, what do you want to do now?”

Ugh! This is part of my problem with this particular doctor. If I knew how to treat myself, I would, but she’s supposed to be the expert. In my opinion, she should lay out my options and then help me make decisions, not ask me to tell her what to do. I’ve seen her twice now . . . we shall see if we go past a third visit.

On the second visit, she had my records, but not all of them. No sign of my immunization record. Luckily I have that (current as far as I know) and will bring it to them eventually, or send it. But seriously, where the hell are they? Supposedly Kansas didn’t have them either. So then why didn’t Colorado send them? When all medical records have been put into a computer, why are mine so incomplete?

Ok, next visit involved getting my vision checked. True, I didn’t have those records sent (different doctor, and in Colorado) but I wasn’t concerned. I didn’t think there were any major things that they couldn’t discover simply by doing the exam.

Oh how wrong I was.

See I have a Nevus inside my eye. What’s a Nevus? According to Wordnik it’s :

“n. A congenital growth or mark on the skin, such as a mole or birthmark.”

Translation, I have freckle like birthmark inside my eye. Sarah has a freckle that you can see on her eye.

It’s a freckle.

Anyway, in Colorado, my fabulous eye doctor had the technology to take pictures of the inside of my eyes to look at the size and the shape of the nevus, as well as my general eye health. For that reason, I haven’t had to have my eyes dilated in years.  When I went to get my eyes checked, I assumed that would be the case here, but of course I was wrong.  And, not being a medical professional, I didn’t know to mention the nevus early in the appointment. After a severe scolding from Dr. Lackofpersonality #2, I was informed that I have to come back (with an expensive copay this time) and be dilated because “now that he knows, he has to check it.”

That fun happens tomorrow.

Next, of course, was the fun female examination I discussed in “Things I Don’t Understand”. At least there I connected with a fabulous Nurse Practitioner, and solved the mystery of my past history by simply choosing (under her guidance) to move on and let it go.

Ah the relief.

Back to today’s misadventures in Medical history. I walked in thinking there should be no problem, they sent my records. Well, yes, they sent my records. They sent the analysis of the records. They DID NOT send the films. No pictures. Nada.

“Do you have them?”

“No, they wouldn’t give them to me.”

“They might not look at the new pictures without them. We’ll have to send for them again.”

Aaaauuuuuggggghhhhh!

One of the worst things is waiting for the results of a mammogram. Even though there’s no family history of breast cancer, it looms as a possibility in every women’s mind. But, because of the incompetence of medical records and a confusing inability for one system to talk to another, I have to wait longer than the average time to find out my results.

There are a couple of good things about this now. I finally have access to my own medical records, via technology. So if we find ourselves moving again it shouldn’t be so hard. I also have finally caught up to myself in terms of proactive medical treatment.

Except for the dentist.

Bleah!

Seeking the Truth Inside Yourself

“She is without any need to please, any need to act, or look, or be a certain way. It’s as if she’s done with that, and rests now in the solid center of herself, having arrived at her own condensed truth. She is herself. And that is all.” (Sue Monk Kidd, Ann Kidd Traveling with Pomegranates)

“As far as I’m concerned, people who think they fear failure have got it wrong. They really fear success. If you truly feared failure, you’d be very successful.” (Barbara Sher, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What it Was.)

The journey I began when I first started writing this blog has taken me in surprising directions, and I am still travelling.  I’m not just talking about the physical realities of my journey, with moves from Colorado to Kansas to Massachusetts including stops and pauses along the way: Okoboji, IA; Seattle, WA; Lexington, KY; Slovakia. These, of course, are part of my journey, but my inner journey has traversed millions and millions of miles and I am only beginning to discover what it all means.

Yesterday, as I was spending a relaxing day hanging out with Sarah in a bookstore, I found myself journaling in response to a prompt in Barbara Sher’s book. While I haven’t done all the activities she suggests, I have been reading a lot of books like her in the hopes that I could clarify for myself what goals and dreams I truly want to embrace. As I wrote in my journal yesterday, I came one step closer to my truth, even though I can’t label it with a traditional sounding career name.

Actually, I’m not even sure I’m ready to put this into words. So instead I will fill today’s post with a few images that, added all together, somehow represent the me that I am on my way to becoming.

Black Virgin of Rocamadour

Goddess Grants the Rebirth of Japan

The journey has just begun, where will it lead?

The Journey in Etheree

As we drove from Iowa to Kansas yesterday, and I thought about the journey I am on, I decided to sketch.That then led to writing a poem. Please forgive the big error on this, I was doing it in the car after all.

For the poem, I attempted another etheree, as I thought it would create the image of words moving into the distance down the road. It reads as follows:

Now
Begins
The Journey
Moving onward
into the unknown.
In the distance, a choice
as yet unseen, a tunnel
a fork in the road to somewhere
beyond the knowledge and the dreams and plans
of the woman who moves forward bravely.

____________________

Today’s Quote: 

“It is better to travel well than to arrive. ” Buddha 

The Power of Social Media, College Networks, and Support Systems

I have made a discovery!

In my panic of the past few days as I struggle to figure out how to move a family from Kansas to Massachusetts in less than a month without having to give up my dog babies, I have tried to expand my search for both housing and work. I announced the move on Facebook. I’ve updated my LinkedIn profile. I joined an alumnae group for Smith College on LinkedIn. And I’ve written posts here.

An amazing thing has started to happen. No, I haven’t found a place to live or a house yet, but suddenly I feel less alone. First came the wonderful and supportive comments on my posts here. Then came e-mails from the alumnae group–one from the CDO at Smith offering to help me find work, and one from a Smithie who lives in the Worcester area, offering to just help me in any way she can. Then came comments from friends on Facebook offering to hook me up with job possibilities and ask around for housing.

I now have plans for coffee dates and lunch dates (and possibly a tree viewing trip to Maine in the fall). I have a tentative meeting (either on phone or in person) to help find work. I have a job possibility, and two rental possibilities that are a little out of our price range but are better than nothing. I feel like I am building a valuable  support  community that will make this transition smoother and more successful.

I don’t know if I have any blogging buddies in Massachusetts, but I’d love to hear from you if I do. Or anywhere in the North East for that matter, as this network is an important one too.

I always forget the power of networking and the power of admitting that you need help. I tend to think I have to figure it all out on my own, but the world doesn’t really function that way.

“It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges. ” Mike Davidson

“The way of the world is meeting people through other people.”  Robert Kerrigan

Really, I shouldn’t be so surprised by this, as I have often written about the connections that make this world such an intricate and interesting web of life.

So, I’d like to say thank you to the miracle of networking, the power of social media, the connections from all of my educational programming, and the wonderful support that people have offered me.

Now if I could only find  a place to live that will let me keep my dogs.

A Letter of Apology

Map of USA with Kansas highlighted

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Kansas,

I am sorry if you think I hate you. I don’t. I have struggled in my time here, but only because of my own problems not because of you.

I recognize the many wonderful things about you. I’ve been so impressed by the volunteerism in this community, from helping with arts programming to giving time and supplies after natural disasters, this community supports each other. I’ve met incredible people here, especially some lovely women who have become the woman I want to be, living vibrant fulfilled lives fighting for what they believe in, and creating what they want to see happen. I have had great opportunities here, to do interesting work with wonderful people.

Yet, some believe that I hate everything about Kansas. I don’t. I have struggled a little because I am extremely liberal, and most of Kansas is not. I’m to blame there. I have  struggled a little with some sexism, but I can face that anywhere. I have struggled a little because of loneliness, when a high pressure job took my partner’s complete attention. That’s not Kansas’ fault.  I have struggled a little because I am very different. Perhaps that is my fault too. I’m sorry if you think I’ve expressed hate when exploring these topics on my blog, because that was not my intent. My intent was to explore the issues I don’t understand and try to understand them.  As I wrote in a recent post:

As I provided the details of my life I had the first revelation–I am happy with many of the professional experiences I’ve had this year. True, some things (like the classes from hell and the battle between athletics and the arts) made life a cruel challenge. But, on a personal and professional growth level, I’ve learned so much this year and it has been more successful than some of my experiences in Durango.

Several of the people I’ve talked to have asked why I am not happy. What’s wrong with Kansas?

I can’t fully answer that question except to say that it is not home. I do not feel like I match the place. But, if home is “what we cobble together out of our changing selves” could I turn the place into home? Well, it is possible, but I don’t know that I will ever fully succeed.

So please forgive me, Kansas, for not being able to make you home. Sometimes people and places simply do not fit together. But, that does not mean I won’t hold you as special in my heart. For this was the  year, I made wonderful friends. This was the year, I created art. This was the year, I discovered my strengths and my weaknesses as a person. This was the year, I learned to follow my heart.

I couldn’t have done that without you, Kansas. So, if I have insulted you in any way, or made you feel disrespected, I am truly sorry. You will never be forgotten.

Sincerely,
Lisa, the confused transplant from Massachusetts

Speeding Back into the Unknown

It looks like I’m back on that speeding roller coaster carrying me on a crazy ride to destinations unknown. While this change was something I’ve been looking for, now that it is here I feel overwhelmed with the speed and the unclear destination at the end. Will I crash into a brick wall? Will I be flung off the track into the icy waters lying below? Will I pull safely into a station and be welcomed with open arms? Only time and the ride will tell.

Okay, time to leave this metaphor behind and be specific.

At the end of August, we are going to leave Kansas and move to Massachusetts as Nathan has accepted a position as technical director at Worcester State University.

There are both positive and negatives to this move, the biggest negative being a pay cut (especially since I don’t know how long it will take me to find work). But, given the insanity of his job in Kansas, and the fact that it has really caused chaos to our marriage and our family (one of the things I haven’t really written about) we decided that this move was something that had more benefits than negatives.

I move back into the unknown, with no clear job, no clear role, and (as of yet) no clear address to move into.  I am starting all over again, and I’m not sure what that means. Despite all the interesting projects I’ve done over this past year, I still have a career path that has so many twists and turns it is almost impossible to decipher.

I don’t know who or what I am anymore. I don’t know how to market myself to  get the job of my dreams, because I’m not sure what that job is.  Here is the description of myself that I put on LinkedIn a long time ago,

Overview: I am a person who takes on challenges and makes them happen. I welcome learning new things that help me achieve goals. I welcome diversity and unusual opportunities. What this has led to is a diverse and complicated career that is hard to pigeonhole. I am looking for more opportunities and projects that will take advantage of my intelligence, desire to learn, creativity, leadership ability, passion and love of language and culture. I am:

• A Theater Artist & Educator: I have worked in theater in numerous roles including director, stage manager, playwright, and designer. I have directed shows for adult audiences and for child audiences. I teach classes to children and adults. I have collaborated on new works. I am passionate about the power of theater to change lives. I am looking for opportunities to collaborate on interesting and meaningful creative projects.

• An Interdisciplinary Educator: In addition to teaching in college theater departments and arts programs, I have taught in other disciplines, including: writing (composition classes), education, library research, general studies and honors programming. I’ve developed interdisciplinary classes that incorporate theater with other disciplines. I also have mentored students in a variety of ways. I am looking for opportunities that allow me to share my love of teaching and mentoring in creative ways.

• Writer: I write. I’ve written everything from a doctoral dissertation to articles for children; grant applications to a novel for young adults (as yet unpublished); blog entries to journal articles. I am as passionate about writing as I am about theater and education. I am looking for opportunities to write, in any form.

• Manager: I have worked as a stage manager, house manager, festival coordinator, and producer. I have helped start three theater companies and organized volunteers for many events. I am looking for opportunities that allow me to combine my organization skills with my creativity

As you can see, I am a complex individual. But, where this will take me, I have yet to see.

All I know is that here I go . . .

Anyone have suggestions of where to go from here?

A Life Collage

Wolf Creek Pass

Image via Wikipedia

“And what is home, anyway, but what we cobble together out of our changing selves.” (Abigail Thomas, A Three Dog Life)

 As I drove through the mountains last Friday, I found myself holding back tears. Tears from beauty, tears of loss, tears of the unknown.

I drove into Durango, CO with my heart singing, “Welcome Home!” but my mind screaming, “This is no longer home. You cannot come back.”

And yet the people I visit want me to come back. My familiarity with the place begs for me to come back. My discomfort with my current home urges me to come back.

Yet, coming back is no guarantee that it would be the right choice. Too many things have happened to make that an easy solution. No, our solution lies elsewhere, and our home requires a different solution.

Judy, the wonderful woman we are staying with, handed me Abigail Thomas’ memoir when I requested some reading material. The whole book resonated with me on many different levels. But the above quote leaped off the page as I am on my current journey. I am on vacation, but I am also on an internal journey–a journey of realization, recognition, and confrontation.

Over the past few days I’ve had lots of conversations, as I reconnect with friends I left a little over a year ago. Friends I left not because I wanted to, but because I did not see another option. Of course, they all want details of my past year. As I provided the details of my life I had the first revelation–I am happy with many of the professional experiences I’ve had this year. True, some things (like the classes from hell and the battle between athletics and the arts) made life a cruel challenge. But, on a personal and professional growth level, I’ve learned so much this year and it has been more successful than some of my experiences in Durango.

Several of the people I’ve talked to have asked why I am not happy. What’s wrong with Kansas?

I can’t fully answer that question except to say that it is not home. I do not feel like I match the place. But, if home is “what we cobble together out of our changing selves” could I turn the place into home? Well, it is possible, but I don’t know that I will ever fully succeed.

Yet, that is not the root of my unhappiness. I’ve realized the root of it now. I understand it more. I can’t write too much about it at the moment, because I need to deal with it head on first. But understanding it is a step in the right direction. Understanding it will help me fix it, and help me create the home I yearn for–a home I can carry with me no matter where we land, or what path my career takes.

Our journey through life is not a straight one, and mine has been incredibly complex. But with every journey, every choice, every word, and every dream I add to an amazing life collage that can only keep growing in layers and wonder.

That is a life worth living.

Ending, Pauses, and New Beginnings

June 30, 2011.

The last day of a jam-packed month that flew by at the speed of light while crawling at a turtle’s pace.

How did it manage to do that? I have no idea, one of those tricks of time where you live simultaneously in two dimensions–or something like that.

Perhaps if I sum up the month of Lisa you will understand more:

  • At the end of May I drove Nathan up to Okoboji, IA where he is working for a Summer Theatre Company. Sarah did not come, as she wanted to stay for the last few days of school. So, after an 8 hour drive up I stayed for a day and then drove 8 hours back to begin my stint of single parenting.
  • The last week of May also included a crazy session of planning for two on-line classes, neither of which I had taught before. Both started on June 1st.
  • The end of May also brought the beginning of Jungle Book rehearsals, the results of which I’ve written about in several posts, most recently this one.
  • With the advent of Jungle Book rehearsals came the great Kaa making project.
  • During the first weeks of June, Sarah still had piano lessons, and I had a few makeup lessons as well.
  • Sarah also took a book making workshop once a week.
  • We began helping to clear out (a little) the house we will be moving into at the end of the summer. I promised Sarah she could paint her new room, and that project started this past week.
  • Twice a week I met with the CLASS LTD group in a project that became exciting, challenging, frustrating, exhausting, and rewarding all rolled into one. That project ended today, in a Art/Drama extravaganza in the park. I don’t have any pictures (yet) of our “performance” but here are some shots of the fun had by this wonderful group of people.

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  • After the festivities, I had a final lunch with my friend Heather from Little Red Henry who will be deserting me moving from Kansas some time this summer.
  • In the midst of all this, I made the decision to self-publish and began laying out the manuscript. I’m waiting on some cover art, and then I’m good to go. (This is what I consider my new beginning)
  • We also, finally, closed on the house and I dealt with all the weird financial stuff and paperwork involved.
  • Finally, Sarah and I loaded up the car for our 14 hour journey to Durango, CO to visit friends and have a mini-vacation. We are currently paused in Best Western in Garden City, KS because I could not drive anymore, and I didn’t have the energy to find a less expensive option. At least it has a pool, which was much needed after a morning in the sun of a 100+ degree day.

Does that list clarify the time confusion? Have you ever had one of those months?

A World Sliding Backwards

I had a little wrangle with bureaucracy today and gave up in a fit of frustration (or maybe a temper tantrum).

I simply wanted to accept my current reality and change my driver’s license from Colorado to Kansas. I admit, I clung to the Colorado license for a couple of reasons. Ostensibly, I held onto it because we owned the house in Durango, and I thought it would be good for one of us to still be considered a resident. In reality, though, I did not want to say good bye to Durango, and even more I didn’t want to embrace my existence in Kansas. There was also the fact that they took a really cute license photo last time, and I didn’t want to let it go.

But, we officially closed on the house and it looks like I’m stuck living here for a while longer, so I figured it was time to give in and get a new driver’s license.

“Do you have your birth certificate and marriage license?”

“Well, no.”

“A current passport will do. We need you to prove your married name.”

“But I didn’t change my name when I got married. I’ve had this name on every license since I was 16.”

“We need your passport or your birth certificate and marriage license. Oh, and proof of address.”

“Well, I’m moving into a new rental in a few weeks. I was hoping I could put that address on.”

“Not without proof.”

Needless to say, I still have my Colorado license for a while. I have my passport, but I could not deal with the bureaucracy anymore today. Besides, I feel like the passport isn’t going to be enough, because I kept my name when I got married. Its like I did something wrong, daring to maintain my identity and keep my last name.

Don’t get me wrong. I see nothing wrong with taking your husband’s name when you get married. But for me, it didn’t feel right for a number of reasons. I reserve the name change for my future (imaginary) career as a radio talk show host a la Dr. Ruth–then I will become Dr. Lisa Lee the Love Dr.

We could be twins. 😉

What really bothers me about all this was the implication about my name. I suddenly recognized that marriage, in the eyes of some laws, means that I am the property of my husband, or at the very least his legal responsibility. I mean, nobody asked him for his marriage license when he changed to the Kansas license last year. Why should I have to provide mine?

I am the property of nobody. I am responsible for myself.

Is that craziness, or just Kansas?

Well, after I finally finished jumping through bureaucratic hoops (I also had to pay for my tags today–a nice chunk of change) Sarah and I got lunch at the only coffee shop in town. I read the Tulsa paper as I was waiting only to be repulsed by the fact that Kansas is trying to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, while also forcing them and two other agencies that provide abortions to go through some inspections to grant them the right to perform abortions–inspections which might inevitably fail in pulling those rights (they’ve already yanked it from one of the three). That would make Kansas the only state to not provide any resources for this as well as the first state to pull all funding from a State Arts Council.

So basically, I believe I am now living in a state that wants me barefoot, pregnant, and the property of my husband without the ability to support myself by doing the work I do the best which involves Arts Education.

You know what scares me the most? The potential that our country could easily continue to slide in this horrific direction–backwards to a world where equality exists only in the mouths of men.

 

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