Friday, April 20, 2018

Five on Friday: Happy It's My Birthday

I thought I was going to feel different by this age. More . . . adult-like. I thought for sure I'd understand things like escrow and and the appeal of The Bridges of Madison County. (I still don't but to be fair I haven't tried reading it again.)

I also thought maybe I'd shed my belief that lying about your age is stupid.  I'll be turning 44 this weekend and not only will I continue to not lie about my age, I'll be happy to tell everyone because:

1. BACK TO AN EVEN NUMBER, BABY! (Apparently I haven't outgrown my weird hatred of odd numbers yet either)

2. Not just any even number but 44! That's half of 88! That's super great! 8 is the best number of all time!

3. I'll be kicking off the birthday celebration with a bang: fasting and blood work! Oh yeah baby, oldish ladies know how to party.

4. I just got an Instant Pot and one of the first recipes I happened across was for Angel Food cake, which is my usual birthday dessert request. I'm taking that as a sign and bought the ingredients.

5. I'll be ending the day in prison and I can't wait. Huh? The inside (incarcerated) half of my social justice theatre troupe has written, produced and directed their own show and will be performing it for the other women in prison. I went through the proper volunteer training so I will be allowed access in to see it. They've worked really hard on every single step of this show. I've known them vicariously for years so meeting them and watching them perform will be a great way to top off my birthday.

Gratuitous baby pic of the birthday girl

Friday, April 13, 2018

Five on Friday: What Were You Wearing Exhibit Opening

From my introduction at last Friday's show . . .

When it happened to Me, too . . . I had some trepidation about telling the Police Officers what I was—or wasn’t—wearing. Because just as I knew that I had every right to be naked in my own bedroom on a hot August night, I also knew that survivors are frequently blamed for their own assaults because of what they were, or weren't, wearing.

I hesitated. 

They never blamed me.

I knew that made me a lucky one, the exception, and as such I’ve always felt a responsibility to speak out on behalf of the others. When I read about the “What WereYou Wearing: Survivor Art Exhibit” at the University of Kansas, I knew I wanted to recreate it in my own community.

With the financial support and donations from many friends, acquaintances and local businesses (including a compassionate cashier at the Salvation Army) my dream began coming to fruition. Ironing, arranging, stapling and translating of signs into Spanish was done by members of the cast. Without their help, this exhibit would not be possible.

As we worked on each story, we never lost sight of the fact that a real person was behind the words and the clothing. The work was emotionally exhausting. I began having nightmares. But we continued, humbled that they would trust us with their words.

Last Friday night we opened our exhibit to the public. After giving them time to peruse the gallery, we performed an original, interactive theatrical piece  that was collaboratively written by our outside and inside (incarcerated) casts. It ended with an open letter entitled "Dear Patriarchy" and audience members were invited to write their own letters to possibly be included in a future show.

 Overall, it was a tremendous success. Here are the top five highlights of the night for today's Five on Friday list:

1. I finally came up with an analogy for how I manage to have time to be so involved in this Social Justice Theatre Troupe when a friend asked me before the show. You know that fable about the frog and the boiling water? Okay, maybe that doesn't conjure up the most positive image, but it's the same idea. If I had tried to get involved at this point, when our Troupe is so active, it'd be like trying to jump into a pot of boiling water. I don't think I could do it. But I was in from the beginning when the pot was cold--so here I am, and tremendously proud, too.

2. Logistically it made sense for my teens to come to the show and my husband to stay home with the younger kids (he'll come to our next performance at the end of the month). I wanted the teens there to help and participate. They did, though my daughter was front and center during the show and my son was a little . . . less obvious in the back. I was glad to have them both there and they were both definitely helpful.

3. On the way home I asked my son what he thought. Not much for heavy discussion, he tried to get away with one-word answers until I told him he'd have to give me some more, like did he learn anything? His answer included, " . . . I learned more about things that have happened to people in Meta but I  feel like I was raised pretty well so, not really" which of course made me feel good as a parent.

4. This (Bandaged heart that can still soar=my symbol for being a survivor of sexual assault) was waiting for me on my nightstand when I went to bed, made by my daughter:

5. We had great feedback from the crowd, student filmmakers interviewing us for their documentary on social justice, a professional photographer (credit to all the pics in this post except the heart above: L.D. Bright Photography) and a great show. Not only that, but the exhibit will be up all month and we get to perform again on the 28th (locals, hit me up if you need details!) 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Five On Friday: How I Spent My Spring Break

Hiking El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico . . . APRIL FOOLS! These are just some of the pictures that Facebook's On This Day has been taunting me with this week, from a trip four years ago.

This Spring Break has featured:
1. Only Friday and Monday off for the teenagers as the recent storms/extended power outages closed school unexpectedly last month.
2. Crappy weather.
3. No fun plans

Wait, wait, that's not my list. I'm going to stop right there and tell you what we DID do that's worth noting:

1.  Really enjoyed having Easter fall on April Fools' Day. The, uh, Bunny hid the kids' baskets this year. It extended the morning's festivities and created a lot of fun memories like all 7 of us standing in our small bathroom trying to find one of the baskets (should have been easy, right? Oh but that Bunny is GOOD!) Also, this:
We could probably do this other days, too, right?

2.  Cleaned out the board games and the non-used toys in the boys' room. FEELS SO GOOD.

3. Spent some time on Easter Day looking through my parents' High School yearbooks. I am really into Charm Club and also these two ladies' captions:

4. Got some much-needed kid shoe shopping done and it turned into a super-fun outing, partly because a department store was closing and selling their mannequins. We might have to go back and get one when they're marked down further, the possibilities are endless . . .

5. Got the  Meta Theatre Company's "What Were You Wearing: Survivor Art Exhibit" set up last night and then ran through our show. It's made up of a scene we've only performed once, one that we've performed a few times, two new poems and a brand new open letter to Patriarchy at the end. It all came together beautifully and I can't wait for tonight's Opening Reception!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Five on Friday: Signs of Spring

It seems fitting that Easter is on April Fools' Day this year, with the back-to-back-to-back storms in March culminating with a  foot of snow on the first day of spring.  There are still  piles of snow around and my crocuses aren't blooming yet so it's hard to believe winter is over.

I'm looking for signs of spring for today's Five on Friday . . . .

1. The birds are singing! Poor things--even on that first day with all the snow falling, they were out their chirping their little hearts out. Thank you, birds. You definitely make it feel like spring.

2. No crocuses (or hyacinths or daffodils or anything blooming yet) but the forsythia bushes are taking on that distinct yellow sheen that means their blossoms are coming soon. I need to remember to bring a few branches in to force them open.

3.  The days are getting longer and so is my spring cleaning to-do list. I'm getting itchy for open windows and organization.

4. While there are still patches of snow on the ground, their are also wide swaths of green . . . and red, yellow, blue, orange, purple . . . all the toys that were hidden under the snow are reemerging.

5. The snow boots shall henceforth be referred to as mud boots.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Five On Friday: Resolution Check-In #2

"To combat this, I've been trying to check in with myself to see how I'm doing. I'm going to try to make a monthly Five on Friday list to hold myself accountable to my goals . . ."

She said in a recap of January on February 2nd. That means there should have been a February recap in early March. Ha ha ha ha ha. February barely counted, it was so short! And March has just been a total wreck with back-to-back-to-back nor'easters. Really, I can hardly blame me for having trouble keeping up.

It's going to be interesting to write out what I've been doing to see if I really have been keeping up with my goals for the year or not:

1. Health: Well, I really haven't been exercising enough. I have shoveled a bit of snow and hauled a bunch of firewood. But yesterday when I didn't really feel like it, I forced myself to go out for a short jog and it was so lovely. So that counts for something.

Two out of five kids have had their teeth cleaned and soon the other three will be going. Next up: making doctor's appointments for all three spring-birthday boys.

2. Relationships: Some plans with friends were canceled because of the snow--this is a good reminder to reschedule that. Also my husband and I really need to go on a date and the stars just might align for that to happen tomorrow. (OH! But I did go to Bingo at the VFW with one of my best friends and I won $50! That was thanks to my husband who watched her kids and pushed me out the door.)

3. Self-Care: I did go for that manicure and, as expected, horrified the poor manicurist. (When her English is shaky but she can still say, "This is not good," you know your cuticles are frightening.)

I thought I was doing okay in the self-care department but I have to wonder if my two recent nightmares, both that had scenarios in which my personal safety felt threatened, are a result of how much time I've been working on the What Were You Wearing: Survivor Art Exhibit. Amazingly I was able to stop the second one, somehow told myself it was a dream and to make it stop. Maybe that's because I had been talking to the kids about lucid dreaming recently? I'm going to add "talk about lucid dreaming more" to my mental list of self-care.

4. Creativity: The art exhibit and the shows The Meta Theatre Company and I will be performing along with it.

5. Community: This is mainly going to go to the exhibit, too, right now. I also went to the Board of Education meeting the other night and will be going to the Township Committee meeting soon--both for specific purposes and I don't think I'll be going to either of those regularly, but it does feel good to be involved.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Five on Friday: In Defense of No

I feel like there's a lot of pressure to say YES. Say yes to your kids more, they're only young once! Say yes to helping with the bakesale-protest-schooldance-candlelightvigil-cleanupday! Yes yes yes!

I'd been starting to feel overwhelmed by scheduling and realized I was just spacing out on too many things. I was already trying to scale back when the nor'easter hit and we had 5+ days of no power, school or work (for me).  It was slow, and it was nice.

I combined my desire to scale back with lessons learned from the power outage to realize there were plenty of good reasons to stand in defense of NO.

1. Power outage lesson: No screen time. I don't think we have a ton of screen time to start with but over the winter we certainly rely on it more. Without power the kids were finding all sorts of fun ways to stay occupied and there was even, somehow, less bickering. So I'm saying no to screen time with more frequency, but not as a punishment, as an encouragement for other creative play. (I'm also following up with, "Do you want to play a game with me?" more frequently.)

2. Power outage lesson: I know I already touched on this in last week's list but it bears repeating: there are no excuses for not getting together with local family more often. We had so much fun visiting, eating dinner with and playing games with family when the power was out. We need cut back the scheduling craziness and do that more.

3. Ah, the scheduling craziness: start saying no to more commitments. Birthday parties for classmates that we don't ever hang with, performances with my theatre troupe (hard for me to do so I'm focusing my energy on a bigger show and exhibit we're doing next month).

4. Not attending every argument I'm invited to--online version. No more arguing with strangers. Oh, there's been so much infuriating ignorance lately. I'm refusing to engage with people who clearly aren't willing to have an actual conversation--so much so that I'm not even going to give examples! (Go me!)

5. Balancing the last two with saying no to what is completely unacceptable and responding accordingly.  This has really been driven home by that big project I mentioned in #3--we at The Meta Theatre Company are assembling a Survivor Art installation for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We've gathered stories from survivors of power-based personal violence about what they were wearing at the time of their assaults. When they said "no," they were ignored. So I am saying no to inaction. I am saying no to accepting or ignoring this. I am saying yes to cutting back in other areas in my life so I can create, assemble, advertise for, set up and perform in this show.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Five on Friday: No Power, No Problem

We'd been without power for about 48 hours when I figured it was time to cook up some of the food that was in the fridge before it went bad. We have a gas stove so no power is no problem for cooking. (We're also lucky enough to have a pond so we were  filling buckets with water to warm up for washing dishes.) "It's almost like you were made for this," observed my husband.

"It's all that playing house I did." I said it as a joke but I think it's at least partially true. Countless hours of my youth were spent in my backyard playhouse, crafting meals from scavenged wild onion grass and collected rain water.

We hadn't resorted to eating wild onion grass yet but I did horrify my children by saying I think I could capture one of the bigger birds that come to our deck for birdseed and cook it if we were desperate.

Besides just being in my element this week with fire stoking and water collecting, I have to say I've actually really enjoyed not having power. I like feeling self-sufficient and spending a lot of technology-free time with my family. It wasn't terribly cold, work and school were canceled, nearby family still had power for when we needed to shower or recharge, we had firewood, water and each other (oh, Mom, you're so corny!).

Here are some of the best things about the five days without power:

1. The fireplace! Great for warmth, ambience, drying snow boots, and using that pie iron we forgot we had! The first night without power we all ate dinner on the floor by the hearth and my 11-year-old said, "If the power came back on now it would kind of ruin everything."

2. Finding a creative way to brew a pot of coffee . . .

3.  Remembering one of my best parenting hacks: glow sticks! While the fireplace, candles and a big flashlight were sufficient for seeing each other and playing games at night, bedtime can be scary when there's no light coming from clocks, appliances and hallways. That's why I try to always keep glow sticks on hand, to give to the kids to take to bed when the electricity has gone out. This  go 'round they also discovered the joys of a battery-operated transistor radio that used to belong to their Pop-Pop and the glow sticks were great for in-the-dark dance parties.

4. Chalkboard observations from my oldest son that made me laugh: Games News Other I miss the internet :(

The power is BACK--and this time it's personal. Electricity 2: Regular Boogaloo.

5.  We played together so much. Card games, board games, silly games. My 11-year-old may now be a Rummy 500 card shark. We had dinner with Grandma, Aunts, Uncles . . . it was really nice. We need to remember that there doesn't have to be a nor'easter for us to do these things. I may institute no-power nights in the future . . .

BONUS:  My husband may have said one of the best things he's ever said about me when he said, "She's like a funny, sexy Ma Ingalls. It's weird." That might be what I want on my gravestone. Or at least, I don't know, my resume.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Five on Friday: Playlist for Parkland

Mighty Parkland warriors, you don't know me but I've been thinking of your community all day. I'm starting to write this list on the day when you are headed back into your school. Today my kids had a half day--I'm not sure why but it worked out well as it turned out to be an unseasonably warm February day in New Jersey. They're all outside playing with kids from the neighborhood. My kids went to school today and then they came home again, safe. All of them. All of the neighborhood kids, too. Apparently that's something I shouldn't take for granted anymore.

All week I've been hearing songs that seem to lend themselves to the powerful movement you've created.  My daughter will be headed to a March for Our Lives in a large city in a few weeks, we'll be seeing what other protests are happening locally.  Walk-Outs and protests are planned here in our schools and my children of varying ages will be participating in various ways. I'll be supporting them and still thinking of you . . . and listening to my Playlist for Parkland. (There are more that keep occurring to me to be included but these were the first five.)

1.  Tori Amos' God. This is for all those "thoughts and prayers" from previous shootings that did nothing to protect you.  

                                             God, sometimes you just don't come through
Do you need a woman Parkland Teenager to look after you?

2. Tom Petty & the Heartbreaker's I Won't Back Down 

You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down . . .  
                                                and pretty much every lyric in this song.

3.  Tears for Fears' Sewing the Seeds of Love  Lots of good stuff  in here, too, like:

High time we made a stand and shook up the views of the common man
Sowing the seeds of love . . . sowing the seeds, and end to need the politics of greed 

4. Vampire Weekend's Giving Up the Gun Not sure what they're actually referring to with these lyrics, but I generally think that lyrics are open to interpretation to how they apply to the listener's life. This one's for all the 2nd amendment defenders turning in their weapons.

 And though it's been a long time, you're right back where you started from.
I see it in your eyes, that now you're giving up the gun

5. David Bowie's Heroes 

I, I can remember
(I remember)
Standing by the wall
(By the wall)
And the guns, shot above our heads
(Over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall
(Nothing could fall)
And the shame, was on the other side
Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be heroes just for one day

Except, of course, your heroism endures. History has its eyes on you.* Thank you for your bravery.

If this playlist was a CD, I'd want my daughter's original artwork to be the cover.

*Bonus Hamil-Track, natch.