Sunday, May 14, 2017

Listen to Your Mother, the Writer

After LTYM performance, with most of the fam!
I can go for ages without stretching myself (and I don’t just mean yoga). Life can seem challenging enough just treading water, doing my job at church, writing on Thursdays (my day off from work). But then I will have spurts where I’m stretching all over the place. That describes this past month, when I found myself sharing a stage in Bethlehem, PA one weekend, and attending a large writer’s conference in New York City the next.

When I first heard about the “Listen to Your Mother” shows, I was intrigued. LTYM began in 2010. The idea was to “give motherhood a microphone” and produce shows featuring 12 mothers reading their stories. Stories? About being a mom? Sign me up! was my initial reaction. But when I checked their website, I noticed that, while these shows were occurring all over the country, the nearest location to me was way up in the Lehigh Valley, a hilly hour and a half from home. Now, I enjoy a long solo drive to an unfamiliar area. Not. Add to that the crazy weather we’ve been having (snow/ice was part of the forecast the day of the first rehearsal)—they were real “white knuckle” trips. But I made it, and am glad I did.

The other 11 readers represented a wide variety of motherhood experiences. One had been a surrogate, carrying a baby for a stranger. Another had lost her mother as a baby, and told of being raised, haphazardly, by her father. There were adoption stories, miscarriage stories, a story of a mom whose own mother had been abusive. One brave participant was nine months pregnant (she thankfully waited to deliver until AFTER the performance). Most of the tales were intense; many were touching. I was the oldest mom, with the oldest kids, so they put me last on the program. To a woman, everyone was lovely, and the show went very well.  

Lunch with fellow writers! Yay!

Then last Saturday, I went to the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference in Manhattan. You have to qualify to join ASJA, with enough articles published in national newspapers and magazines. My resume isn’t there yet, but the day inspired me to reach for the next level as a writer. There were agents, publishers and editors there, offering wisdom. I found out what it takes to be published in the Washington Post and some top online sites. A highlight was my lunch with three writers, including the creator of “Beyond Your Blog.” Susan offers weekly tips, podcasts, and an exhaustive list of writing opportunities (I got my highest-paid writing gig through a Beyond Your Blog listing). By the end of the day, I was starting to feel at home in the company of big-time writers, and dared to hope I can join their ranks someday.


Stretching is a good thing, I reminded myself. I plan to keep exploring challenging activities and see where they lead me. And who knows? I may even go back to yoga class. Maybe.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Reality, Virtually



Rose and "Broken Night" team

Rose’s first project as a producer premiered last week at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC. “Broken Night” will also be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in France later this month. This has been exciting for her, as it is not just an ordinary short movie. This is a “virtual reality” experience. VR has already been used in video games, but using it in film is relatively new.

The viewer puts on a headset, through which the movie is seen. Throughout, said viewer makes choices that determine how the plot will play out. This sophisticated setup actually tracks your vision, and adapts depending on which character you are looking at at a given time. I believe everything ends up in the same place, but it’s the getting there that changes from person to person. As you can imagine, this involved filming different scenarios for each choice made, so it was quite the production.

“Broken Night” stars British actress Emily Mortimer in the leading role. The storyline revolves around an unstable woman’s undependable memories of a crime—a shooting in her home following an argument with her husband. An intruder is involved. Did she pull the trigger? Who was shot? A detective stands in for the viewer, asking questions, trying to clarify the sequence of events.

 I haven’t yet seen the film, but I sense it has the quality of a dream, where our self-conceived plots take weird twist and turns that we orchestrate subconsciously. Within our dreamscape, everything feels real—but there are certain moments when we are aware that it is NOT real. My reality check often comes when I am in peril. The thought surfaces: this is not happening. I awaken, and wonder about the strange choices my mind made in the dead of night, to steer my story one way or another.

In a way, VR imitates our “real” lives, as we make the daily choices that affect our outcomes. Like VR, we may interact with others, but are still essentially alone in our unique experiences of life. As technology continues to improve, so will “virtual reality,” until there may come a day when it is impossible to know for sure which world we are inhabiting. I find VR as fascinating as I do frightening; the applications for good are there for sure, but I hate to think of us as becoming ever-more-separated islands, with our headsets keeping us focused on ourselves and the lonely shows we are producing in our minds.

Sometimes I wonder if my whole life is part of someone else’s dream…but then I realize. It is. It is part of God’s dream for the world, and it is a dream of peace, and love, and joy. So as I make the choices that shape my reality, may I live into the big, baffling, yet beautiful picture that our God created. May I stop fearing progress, and instead be exhilarated by wonderful newness. The future is here, now. Let me embrace it all. 





Sunday, April 16, 2017

Cultivating Joy

There are plusses and minuses to late Easters. On the plus side, it’s bound to be warmer, robins (and bunnies of course) are hopping around, and flowers are in bloom. A negative is that Lent is also late, which means evenings are lighter, and attendance at Wednesday evening services at church drops precipitously (hard to get excited about soup suppers when temps are in the 70s). But on the whole, I prefer to wait for my Easter.

You know the saying “life is short, eat dessert first?” Well, short as I realize life is, I’m still in favor of extending the enjoyment of a good meal, with the slice of cake or pie coming at the end, where it belongs. I am in the camp of preferring evening holiday dinners. I recall early afternoon pig-outs (turkey-outs?) at my in-laws’, where everyone slumped in chairs watching TV, nearly comatose, afterwards, only to face Round #2 of leftovers in sandwich form come nightfall. Then came the real food comas. Far better, I think, to spend the bulk of the day hungrily anticipating the feast to come!

Steve and I were married almost eight years before our kids began arriving. On the plus side, we had a long time to focus on each other and our relationship before becoming parents. A negative is that now, when I’m 60, my grown children are only just beginning to produce my grandchildren, and the odds are I won’t live to see all of them grow up. But on the whole, I’m glad we waited to start our family.

Thanks to Lynn and "Cultivating Joy"

 As I write this, Easter dinner is underway (but won’t be served until 6 PM). On my dining table are two absolutely gorgeous bouquets of fresh cut daffodils, tulips, viburnum, and other delicate blossoms. This bounty comes from my dear friend Lynn, whose floral business is called “Cultivating Joy.” It is such a fitting name, as both Lynn and her flowers bring joy to me and so many others. The thing about cultivation, though, is that there’s a waiting period between planting and blooming (sometimes a long one). For flowers, and for joy as well, there is a need for patience. Long as the days, weeks, months, even years may seem, a happy outcome is always worth the wait.

I look back on the attenuated and winding career path that brought me from the theater, through fulltime motherhood, and on to my church work and my writing life. Would it have meant as much had I skipped over the tough stuff, the missteps and mistakes? Tempting as it is to wish those away, in retrospect I needed those experiences to fully appreciate what I have now.

And so, this Easter, I am reaping joy that has been cultivated for a long, long time. Aiden and Peter are loving their “Easter Bunny” treats, and I am adoring them, my precious grandbabies. I wish for you amazing joy, however long and far you may have traveled to reach today.

Alleluia.

Joy #1


Joy #2