The Magic of Midnight (100 WCGU)

The midnight hour holds the deepest magic.

Once a year, colored lights fill the sky as midnight strikes; celebrating a new beginning and scaring off the evil spirits of yesteryear. Anything and everything becomes possible, balancing on the line between what was and what will be.

A kiss at midnight, either that of true love or the icy touch of a departed loved-one as he says goodbye.

At midnight we can let go of yesterday and take our first steps into tomorrow,

The known and the unknown lie in balance; it’s up to us to embrace the magic and step into the unknown.

My first night in Bratislava.

Night time magic in Bratislava, Slovakia

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 Flavors of Fall

Autumn has always been my favorite season. The change has only just begun, but it never fails to create a feeling of excitement and awe in me. I don’t know exactly what it is about the fall. Perhaps it is because even now it seems more like the beginning of the a new year to me then January ever does. I grew up celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in the fall, but it’s more than that. The fall means a new school year, with new things to learn. The fall means new clothes, especially the beginning of sweater weather, which I love. While the fall technically represents the dimming of life, as the leaves fade away, to me it merely represents continuation and change, because though the beauty fades it will return again next year.

I thought I would share some of my favorite things about fall with you. I love the smell of cinnamon and apples, of pumpkin pie and leaves on the ground. I love the colors and the warmth, the blue of the sky and the ever-changing leaves. Here are a few images of the beauty and flavors of fall.

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Happy Fall and Happy New Year everyone! May the sweetness, warmth, and color of this season fill your life in the coming year.

Too Much on My Plate, But Not Enough Decadent Treats

fancy chocolate bar, cracked

Image via Wikipedia

As with many people, the New Year brings with it a new attempt at getting healthy. I refuse to say that I am dieting, because I am not. I am merely trying to stay focused on living a healthy lifestyle and taking better care of myself. If I think of this as a diet, then it is harder to follow to follow my first resolution of  Resolving to Forgive because I become obsessed with every time I break the diet and then cannot forgive myself.

So this is really about not eating in depression. Not eating in boredom. When I do snack, making healthy choices rather than empty calories full of sugar. Eating smaller portions. And becoming more active, which I realize is the key to my feeling better overall.

Easy right?

Yesterday I was doing well. I ate a healthy breakfast. I exercised. I prepared a big thermos of tea to help stave off the munchies. I ate small portions of healthy snacks.

And I worked. I worked at preparing syllabi. I worked at paying lots and lots of bills. I worked and worked and worked.

I like being busy. I like the challenge of having tasks that need to be completed. But yesterday, as I poured hours of thought into two classes (and I still have two more to go) deep inside I was resenting it. I resented the fact that I work as hard, if not harder, than many people I know, and yet when it comes down to pay I feel like I’m getting 2 cents an hour. I resented the fact that I have spent my life working, and that I am really good at what I do, but life has taken unexpected and somewhat unpleasant twists and turns. I resented the fact that, with all the work I was doing, I didn’t have time to write.

All of this boiled underneath my work until a friend saw that my Facebook was up (I forgot to close the tab) and started chatting. This friend seems to always bring me back to my senses. She was talking about her new dieting attempt and how it was hard to resist temptation.  I told her that she shouldn’t completely deprive herself. As I said this, bells began ringing in my head. Maybe my bad mood had a little to do with depriving myself.

I went to the hidden stash of chocolate and got two small squares of chocolate. I savored them. I ate slowly. I acknowledged the taste and the decadent sweetness.

And then I felt better.

Maybe it was simply low blood sugar, but I don’t think it was that alone. By allowing myself a little taste of decadence, I also allowed myself to honor myself. I don’t mean that I need to binge on junk; but I do need to treat myself with moments of pure bliss. In this case, bliss came in chocolate form.

So, what do I conclude from all of this? I know that I still need to work on forgiving myself for my perceived failures. I know that I need to listen carefully to my body and not deprive it completely. I know that I have to ration my work so that I don’t feel like I am pouring heart and soul into something where I then feel under-appreciated. I know that I have to allow time each day to exercise, and to do projects that are special to me.

And I know that sometimes it takes just a little bit of chocolate.

Auld Lang Syne(s) of Change Everlasting

#20 - Auld Lang Syne

Image by keishkakeishka via Flickr

Happy New Year, everyone.

This time of year is a time when everybody reflects on the past. It does not matter what holiday we celebrate, but we all talk about holidays past. We meet with old friends and/or family that we don’t see that often. Conversations abound with “remember when . . .? ” and “whatever happened to . . .?”

On New Year’s Eve we sing a song that asks us to reflect on the past as we take this tiny step into the future.  This is also the time of making promises to ourselves that we will lose weight, or make more time, or exercise or whatever doomed resolution we see fit to make.

This year, the auld lang syne of the holidays has taken on layers of meaning for me; some good, some not-so-good. We drove back to visit my family, especially my father who has Alzheimer’s. I wanted my daughter to have some time with Papa while he is still somewhat cognizant of who we are and has memories we can share. My husband wanted to borrow questions from StoryCorps to learn more about my parents lives, and so that our daughter could have an interesting conversation with a person who is living in Auld Lang Syne. It wasn’t totally successful, as my dad didn’t answer as many questions as I thought he would. I think he was overwhelmed, and we probably should have tried again. Surprisingly, my mother answered some of the questions and we all learned a few surprising things.

On the way, we stopped to visit a high school friend of my husband’s who became an instant friend when she and I met long ago. We wanted our daughter’s to meet (who are only a couple of months apart). Instant sisters, and a little trip down memory lane that takes us into tomorrow.

My next step into Auld Lang Syne came with a mini-reunion of college friends. For me, this revealed some things to me which I wish I had done a little differently (like maybe become closer to those people rather than filling the spot of pathetic tag-along with other’s). It lead me to understand that I have changed in many ways, and I believe they are for the better. But it also made me recognize that I can only move forward by forgiving myself and letting go of the past.

This led to a resolution Resolving to Forgive which will truly change, and improve, my life if I can keep it.

Another journey into Auld Lang Syne was the scheduled reunion of high school drama friends. A large group of us were going to meet but it got postponed because of the blizzard, so eventually only a few people were able to come. The original planning of this gathering really struck a chord with me, as people seemed to leap on the chance to get together, or expressed utter dismay at having to miss it. This, I think, is a result of Facebook entering our lives. The one thing we all have in common now, although many of us are still in the arts, is that we have reconnected through a social media. As excited as I was to see everyone, and as disappointed as I was when the plans fell through, I had this niggling thought in the back of my mind. Why are we so interested in doing this? Why do we seek the connections or ties that stretch back into history when I am sure that we have all moved on from?

Auld Lang Syne.

For me, there is some comfort in talking to people who knew me when . . . when  I was filled with youthful optimism, when we lived a life of potential, when my patterns were only beginning to be established. The past is a place of memory wrapped in warm fuzzy-ness, even the reality wasn’t that spectacular. I wanted to share that past with my daughter in the hopes that it will make her future also be filled with warm thoughts of the past.

This trip has been full of memorable moments that I hope my daughter will hold in her heart as these times become Auld Lang Syne. As we prepare to get back on the road and head into our current reality, which for me feels like a pause before we move onto the future. This trip has been full of complex feelings and emotions all of which can be summed up with one simple phrase. I think you already know it.

Auld Lang Syne!

Resolving to Forgive

Happy New Year World (2010)

The New Year is right around the corner. As usual I have put in the back of my mind the resolution to lose weight, to get healthy, to exercise more, to write more, etc. However, those are promises I’ve been making and breaking too often now, and I just recently recognized that there is one resolution that I must stick to before I can accomplish any of the others.

I am resolving to forgive.

This resolution runs deep, and underlies my ability to succeed in any other resolution I could possible make. This is not just about forgiving others for any perceived wrongs on their, part. This is about forgiving myself for the abuse I have given myself over the years, both mentally and physically.

Thus, my New Year’s Resolution for 2011 is to Forgive.

I forgive myself for the weakness that made me make some poor choices in the past, especially when it came to friends.

I forgive myself for not becoming the person I thought I wanted to be. After all, I may still be wondering what I want to be when I grow up, but the person I am right now is pretty interesting.

I forgive myself for gaining weight and not taking care of myself physically. I can only change that if I can forgive myself for doing it.

I forgive myself for my failures as a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend. I know that I have many failings in these ares, but I also have many successes.

I forgive myself for my inability to completely forgive those who have hurt me. At the same time, however, I think I am very close to honestly forgiving if not forgetting.

I also must include in this resolution forgiving myself for the mistakes I have yet to make. I’m finally learning that I dwell too much on mistakes and not enough on achievements. So perhaps part of this New Year’s Resolution is to not just Forgive but to Honor.

That’s it! I hereby resolve to Honor myself  and others throughout the year 2011 as well as the coming years. I also resolve to continue to forgive.

I honor you, my readers. I hope you forgive me for this post.

Later in the day . . .

I spent much of the day reading The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. It’s a beautiful and intriguing book overall, but the following passage gave me chills as the universe sent me a message:

“All forgiveness is self-forgiveness. . . . But I do not yet know how to forgive. Or who, in the end, really needs to be forgiven. ” (Barry 383)

Ending and Beginnings: Happy New Year

 

A shofar made from a ram's horn is traditional...

Image via Wikipedia

 

I know, New Year’s Day isn’t until January 1; but I still live in the cycle of the school year (as well as loving Rosh Hashana), so the beginning of the new year comes at the end of summer when school is about to start. That is the end of whatever summer adventures you have been living, and the beginning of the next adventure. This year, in particular, my life begins another chapter. We move to a new home, new jobs, and for me a new start to a career that has been struggling to some extent. Not completely, I guess. My career path has just taken so many twists and turns that I can no longer define it. When I was watching Eat, Pray, Love the other day I reflected on what one word describes me (for those of you who haven’t seen or read it, the search for that word plays a big role). I do not know my word right now. I cannot be defined by my career because it is so complicated. I am more than wife, mother, friend. I am hoping that this next year, this new beginning, allows me to discover that word. I don’t know why it is important to define ourselves, but I believe it is. I know I have been searching for something for a long time now, and that something involves my definition of self. Hopefully, as I move away from the negativity that has surrounded me for the past few years, I can reclaim the mysterious being that is me. I am very excited to be going back to teaching what I love and doing what I love. I don’t regret the experiences of the past few years, as they have made me grow in so many ways. I know, however, that this particular ending and beginning will just make the adventure all the sweeter.

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