Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Blockbuster Show

After my group of friends had such a good time going to see Something Rotten, we looked at the 2017-2018 theatre series and decided to see Wicked.  Like Rent, I had been excited about the show when it first came out, but hadn't gotten around to seeing it.  I worried that yesterday's experience of seeing Wicked might disappoint me in the same way that Rent did, but I needn't have worried.  Yesterday's show restored my faith in theatre--or more accurately, renewed my faith in theatre, since I never really lost that faith.

I had been feeling grumpy about going.  We've gotten a bit overextended in our social engagements, as we are wont to do in our attempt to avoid becoming recluses, and part of me just wanted to laze about the house.  It's the height of the tourist season and traffic in Ft. Lauderdale has becoming maddening.  There were many reasons I felt whiney.

But we paid big bucks (for us) for the tickets, and we didn't really have a valid reason for not going, so off we went.  I sat down in the theatre, saw the elaborate set with the dragon at the top of the stage, and I said, "Ah, yes, I remember why we do this."

The show is completely sold out, as is Hamilton, which will come in December.  We talked about whether or not we could ever afford Hamilton, as the tickets start at $200.  But if we started saving now, that would only be $20 a month, I pointed out.  We agreed it would be worth it--but we likely won't be able to get tickets--although, who knows?

I am so happy that people are still going to theatre, although I realize that the success of the blockbuster shows means that some of the more avant garde shows won't be produced or if they're produced, they won't be seen by many.  But that's always been the case.  I do think that the blockbuster show is a great way to introduce people to the concept of theatre.  I do think it's like the blockbuster book, keeping the publishing industry afloat for all of us.

I loved the set--thrilling!  The costumes were gorgeous, and I was impressed with how they took the sprawling book and made a manageable plot.  I didn't remember much of  the book--it's been almost 20 years since I read it--but I did remember its scope.

I was glad that the music wasn't overwhelming in terms of what I've come to call full-throated singing, the kind of belting out of a song that makes me want to plug my ears.  Yesterday's music was not that way--in fact, I often had some trouble making out the lyrics (my complaint with Rent).  I did find my eyes going to the Open Captioning, which helped. 

Note to self:  when going to see these shows, get the recording in advance. 

I loved the ways that the show used the movie and the books as reference points--so inventive!  I loved the various twists.  I loved the how exhilarated the show made me feel.

I hadn't realized how many groupies the show has.  It was clear that some of the audience came to the show as one might come to a religious experience.  And by the end, I had a bit of understanding of that. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

What's Making Me Happy at Week's End

This morning, I made this Facebook post:  "I am drinking my coffee black this morning; those of you who know me may remember that I usually have a bit of coffee with my sweetened milk that has cocoa powder in it. I wish I could say that I'm saving a lot of calories with my black coffee this morning, but since I'm eating a donut from yesterday's meeting, I'm probably consuming more calories than usual. It's from Dandee Donuts, so it's worth the calories."

Yes, it's been another week of meetings and e-mails, a mix of hectic pace and more relaxed time.  The meetings went well--hurrah!  We had a Readiness Series presentation on Time Management, an all-school meeting (but without students), a Davie-Cooper City Chamber of Commerce Education Committee meeting, and a meeting with the principal of a charter school--no wonder I was tired by yesterday.

Let me make a list of what's making me happy at the end of the week:

--My spouse's sister is in town.  Last night, we walked to the beach and had a seafood pizza at the organic brewery--delicious pizza, delicious beer, and a beautiful view.

--We walked down to the bandshell, where a band played all sorts of music.  I loved seeing the toddler in a tutu twirling to "American Girl."  But what was even better was the older woman in a wheelchair rocking out to "I Want You to Want Me."

--This morning, after I made the Facebook post, I went to the WalMart Neighborhood Market, where I got all sorts of good deals.  The best deal:  canned pumpkin on clearance for 75 cents a can.  I thought there was a pumpkin shortage, so I was surprised to see that the store had so much pumpkin left.  Autumn must be completely behind us if we're trying to get rid of the pumpkin.  I bought 6 cans and would have bought more if I had storage space.

--Today we will go to see Wicked.  I read the book long ago and loved the concept, but I've never seen the play.  In fact, I'm still a bit amazed that I spent so much on these tickets.  Sigh.  I worry that the full-throated singing will bug me.  I'm hoping that I have this dread because I've just seen so many bad interpretations of "Popular."

--Tomorrow will be a family afternoon after church:  my spouse's sister, her grown up daughter, my spouse's brother, his wife, and perhaps their children.  I've bought the food, and that makes me happy.  I am taking various paths of least resistance:  a variety of grilled meat plus grilled cabbage, roasted potato chunks (the family prefers mashed potatoes, but I'm not making mashed potatoes for so many people), and ice cream for dessert.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Segregated Water Fountains and the Modern Campus

I had so many ideas about how to celebrate African American History month at my school, most of which I couldn't pull together.  Did we have a gospel choir?  No.  Did we have any interesting lectures on African American topics?  No.

But we did have a book display in the library, and we did have a bulletin board.  One of my colleagues created a wonderful display at the water fountains:



You'll notice the trash in the one water fountain.  We added a note to let people know that the colored water fountains were usually made unappealing in all sorts of ways.  Throughout the week, though, people kept cleaning up the fountain, so we finally stopped adding the trash back to the fountain.

The frame above the water fountain usually gives information about how we filter the water.  This month, we've gotten this information:



I've been so pleased with this project, which is part installation art, part information:  I've watched people stop to read the information about the Civil Rights Movement that she put on those white pieces of paper around the fountain.  It's a unique way to approach this history--so much more interesting than a bulletin board.

Now my thoughts turn to Women's History month--what kinds of similar projects could we do?  A series of mannequins to show the history of women's undergarments?  Of course, I don't have a corset or a girdle.  Let me keep pondering.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Prayer Vigils

Yesterday was the one week anniversary of the mass slaughter at our local high school.  I went to two vigils.  I didn't go to the one that's making the headlines, the one broadcast on CNN.  I'll be honest--to go to that one would have required that I get tickets (free but thinking ahead required), driven across the county, and stayed up very late, the real deterrent to me.

I've seen and heard bits of it, and to be honest, I'm glad I didn't go.  I wanted something more contemplative.  I wanted candles and spirituals.  I wanted psalms and prayers. 



So when a group from my church organized a group to go to a prayer vigil, I joined up.  We headed over to the city center at Pembroke Pines, where the local governing happens.



There was a strong police presence, and I heard one of the officers say, "We've just done a sweep.  We're clear."

The above picture gives you a sense of the type of gathering it was:  no candles, no spirituals.  We very properly had 3 religious leaders give a prayer:  Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, and I couldn't help but notice that we didn't have a female prayer presence.  Then each member of the City Commission spoke, along with a school board member.  They said very similar things, about how horrible it all was.

When it was over, we decided to head to a vigil at the Pembroke Pines Elementary School.  The principal of the school had a daughter who was killed at the high school; yesterday would have been her birthday.  This vigil was more what I was hoping for, even though it was too windy to light our candles.  Instead, we held up cell phones:



I was struck by all the children who attended.  I'm sure the older ones had a sense of why we were there.  I wonder what the littlest ones will remember.

I am feeling more certain that we are at a hinge point, the way that the Civil Rights Movement changed our politics.  This generation of students will make a change, even if the current crop of politicians can't seem to find their way.  This kind of event will radicalize many of them, and I predict that our culture will change in ways we can't foresee right now.

Here's a black and white photo that my pastor took.  It gives a sense of the size of the group gathered at the tiny elementary school.  It gives a sense of how we're hovering at this hinge of history:


Photo by Keith Spencer

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Time Management and Dreams of the Future

Based on many requests, both from the community and from faculty, a colleague and I have put together a "Readiness Series."  My colleague first conceived of it as getting high school students ready for college, but we quickly realized it would be valuable to many populations.

Last night was our first workshop.  My colleague did a great presentation on time management.  Many of her ideas came from Steven Covey, and they're fairly straight forward.  Still, it's good to be reminded of them.

She had us do an exercise where we thought about the year 2023, 5 years from now.  What did we hope to have accomplished by then?  One of her points was that as we plan, we should start at the end and work our way backward.  For most of us, if we start by thinking about today and what all needs to be done to reach our goal, we won't be able to do much because we're overwhelmed by it all.

Ah, the idea of chunking!  Divide your time into manageable chunks, and you'll be amazed at what you can do.  Plan out your week, but don't cram too much into that planner so that you have space for the unexpected--do that each week, and see how much more you accomplish.

I thought about how far away I've gotten from that, although truth be told, I never had that kind of planner.  But I knew where I wanted to be in 5, 10, 20 years, and I had a plan to get there.  Each day, I'd do something, no matter how tiny, to get further along.  Usually my goals were along the lines of creating new writing, getting writing published, and eventually, I wanted a job in a creative writing department.

While my life hasn't worked out exactly how I was planning for it to, back in the period of 1995-2002, I have taught as many creative writing classes as I would have with a different job, and I have been widely published.

Last night, we had a brief time to write down what we saw for ourselves in 2023.  I love these kinds of exercises.  The first vision that came to my head was one of having the house repaired.  Then we have the decision of when to sell, to get ahead of all the ones who will be selling as we realize how relentless the sea will be in this century.

Then I wrote about transforming the cottage into a workshop for Carl, where he creates wood sculptures that sell to bring us $500-$1000 a month.

I wrote about my surprise success in publishing that had happened by 2023.  Based on the article I had been writing earlier in the day, about what we can learn about prayer practices through the lives of medieval monastic women (I had a fantastic writing session), I had gone on to write a whole book on various spiritual practices and monastic women and female saints, and it had been a surprise success.

As I was writing that paragraph, I felt that happy surprise that often comes when I do uncensored free writing.  Could I really do that?  Is it a good idea?  I record it here, in case it does have some value.

And then, the evening was over.  Because we decided to serve beverages and cookies, the clean up was easy.  I do feel like I've hardly been away from the office, and now the day begins again.  But that's O.K.--it's a joy to have a colleague who has the same capacity for planning and dreaming as I do, a colleague who believes in transformation.

Today we move onto another project.  We unveil our project about growing the campus to 350 students.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  I've been part of a campus, several of them now, that's expanding, and I've been part of a campus that's contracting--it's much more fun to be part of a campus that's expanding.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Prayer Vigils, Planetary Warming, and Other Ethical Dilemmas

Because yesterday was President's Day, and some of us had the day off, and others of us had a more flexible work schedule and the traffic was lighter, we met a group of friends at The Field, an Irish restaurant and bar.  It looks just like I've always imagined a bar in Ireland would look, and it has dining areas that look like cozy Irish cottages.

We spent more time talking about Donald Trump than I really wanted to.  One friend has printed out the indictment that was recently released.  She brought it with her, but luckily, she didn't read it out loud.

We talked about whether or not we'd have sex with Donald Trump for 5 million dollars (we floated this amount, since it was the amount that one ex-wife got in a settlement, I think).  I said, "We really need to change the subject or I'll have bad dreams all night."  We talked about whether or not Winston Churchill had said that quote about how to determine one was a prostitute, something along the lines of Lady, we've already determined what you are, now we need to determine the rate.

We also talked some about the school shooting and whether or not those high school seniors will be able to make a difference--they're headed to Tallahassee today.  I said that they might be able to make a difference:  they have the energy of youth and no mortgage payment to hold them back.

I really wanted to talk about our friends' decision to move inland and upland, which I first talked about in this blog post.  We talked about that a bit, but there have been so many political events that happened between our dinners together that I really wasn't surprised that those discussions eclipsed the how to live a life that's in better alignment discussion.

I spent part of the afternoon fiddling with a sea level rise map, in part because I knew we were meeting our friends for dinner, but mostly because I fell down that internet rabbit hole when I found a news article that says that new research, released last week, says that Miami will experience 2 feet of sea level rise by 2050--not quite far enough away for comfort, since water is rising faster with every report.  At one point, the date for 2 feet of sea level rise was 2100.

I think our plan will still work:  to fix the house, enjoy the house for 5-10 years, and then sell.  We may stay in the area and rent, if my job (the only full-time job between the 2 of us) still exists.

I find it interesting to watch the nation argue about guns, while all the while the sea eyes our shores with growing hunger and impatience.  But I also understand the way that a violent event can transform both individuals and communities.  I will go with my church tomorrow to a prayer vigil because I'm always going to be available to pray for peace.  That might work.  I'm not sure that our prayers can change the processes governed by physics or chemistry that we've already set into motion.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Fifty Years of Life in Fred Rogers' Neighborhood

On this day in 1968, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood premiered.  While I'm fairly sure I didn't see the first episode, I was a regular viewer by 1969 or 1970.

Those were halcyon days for children's television.  I was one of the first viewers of Sesame Street and The Electric Company, and later Zoom.  I got to first grade knowing how to read, and pretending that I didn't; I knew how to read in part because my parents read to me and in part because of these T.V. shows.

I do remember the premiere of The Electric Company, which even as a young child, I could realize that they were trying to teach more complicated concepts.

At the time and for years afterwards, I thought they were more complicated concepts.  The Electric Company was trying to teach kids to read, I reasoned.  What did Mr. Rogers do in his show?

Now that I am older, I see Fred Rogers as having the more complicated task, as he taught children how to manage their anxiety, to accept themselves, to know the difference between fantasy and reality.  I can still sing the ending song that tells us it's such a good feeling to know we're alive.

Fred Rogers came to his signature show from a variety of backgrounds:  Presbyterian minister (ordained but not a preacher) and puppeteer, and a variety of TV shows.  He composed all of the songs on the show and most of the music.  He had background not only in theology but in child development.  All of these talents came together beautifully in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

I find it interesting that Rogers was ordained, but that the larger Church realized the importance of his work with children's television and commissioned him to keep doing that.  It's a good reminder to those of us who feel called to ministry that our ministry can encompass many avenues--including those that earlier generations wouldn't have foreseen.  Fred Rogers went into the field of TV because he hated the medium, but wanted to see if the power of TV could be harnessed for good.  He wanted to see if TV could nurture us.

I'd say that the answer to his question is a resounding yes.  I know that our psychology is shaped in essential ways in our early years, and I feel so lucky that I was one of the earliest visitors to Fred Rogers' vision of a neighborhood.