Monthly Archives: September 2013

Speakeasy Love Hard: One Year On

David working with Nate.

These pictures were taken a year ago today at the Sh*tty Barn, when David Daniel did a terrific job directing these fine actors.

They brought to life the poems called “Speakeasy Love Hard.” One year on, and I haven’t moved the project forward (it was a busy, busy year).  I will move that project forward at some point.  My husband recorded it at the time; maybe if I get to listen to it, I’ll know what comes next.

In the meantime, I’m working on a different play, and enjoying sweet, sweet memories of that night a year ago.

Sarah reacting to Nate singing.

Ashleigh’s sweet smile.

Nate reading “Mobius Strip of a Man.”

Gentlemen in the Rain, Women in the Sun

How fitting that a play highlighting Proteus
would play on a day with various weathers,
rainy and warm then steamy and warm then pouring and warm
then breezy and cool then cool and calm then warm and calm
with the sun changing clouds into haze and then,
when Sylvia crossed the threshold from backstage,
that moment, I would swear it, did the sun
come out, full on,  and turn her blonde hair into blazing
waves of light. I still can’t see, can’t comprehend
why Valentine forgives his awful friend,
why Sylvia forgives her Valentine
for giving her to an inconstant man.
The woman seeming pitiful I get.
The man offending everyone I get.
I choose to see the Bard as having gaps,
not my heart not my brain with this big lapse.



Every Thursday this semester I’m trying to do at least one big thing that reminds me I’m teaching only two courses, and have been allowed the grace and space to spend 20 hours a week on my creativity research.


Waiting for Two Gentlemen of Verona to start this morning, I was able to touch base with one of the many wonderful folks at APT who do their work offstage—at some point this fall, I’ll be doing some interviews about creativity (and especially, ironically, when they try NOT to be creative).


But it was the play itself I was most focused on today.


After all—why research creativity without enjoying the fruits of creativity that my fine little town has to offer?


Nice job, everyone—very nice to see Marcus Truschinski in another leading role, and Travis Knight right there with him (and very fun watching the high school girls at the matinee get all swoony).  I think no one does fragility mixed with strength the way Susan Shunk does—it’s like glass and steel all curving around each other. Nice job, Steve Haggard as Launce, and Will Mobley as Speed, using their terrific comic timing to sharpen the focus of the students who were, for the MOST part, dealing admirably with the distractions of rain and wind and then bright sun and heat.


And I swear, the sun really did come out right at the moment Abbey Siegworth stepped onstage in her tower.


This isn’t my favorite Shakespeare play by any stretch, but I’ve seen APT do it well two times now, and seeing it today gave me fond and bittersweet memories of the last time.  Then, it seemed to me and my friend Lee (may she rest in peace), the director emphasized every possible bit of homo-eroticism in the play (which made Valentine’s actions a little more understandable, if he’s as in love with Proteus as Julia is)

“That was hot,” Lee said to me when we chatted in the aisle right after a performance one night. As I remember it, I could only nod yes.



“September was again September”

Time sometimes seems more like a spiral than a cycle for me. It’s a funnel, spreading up and out, looping over months and seasons from farther and farther away.

Some years are just fucking tornadoes. Just a nice breeze today, though.

I’m very far away from my earliest Septembers, when I slogged through school in a Children’s Allerest fog.  But I’m peering straight down at them from this one, as we try to find the right antihistamine for my son. He doesn’t want chewables anymore, but unless the pill is coated, he has trouble swallowing it quickly…._____

I’ve just finished An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters.  I love to reread the Brother Cadfael mysteries seasonally, but there aren’t many for August or September.  The book ends with this:

“September was again September, mellowed and fruitful after the summer heat and drought. Much of the abundant weight of fruit had fallen unplumped by reason of the dryness, but even so there would still be harvest enough for thanksgiving. After every extreme the seasons righted themselves, and won back the half at least of what was lost. So might the seasons of men right themselves, with a little help by way of rain from heaven.”

It seems so hopeful to say so. And wise, if it’s true.

Which seems like a pretty big “if” to me, living in a time of violent people and violent weather.

It is Brother Cadfael himself, peacefully surveying his fruit trees, thinking these final September thoughts.

And one of the reasons I love that character, it occurs to me, is that his hopefulness is tempered by his use of “might” in that last sentence. So it seems more like wisdom, after all.

Our own pears.

Our own pears.

Half-battical and How

My son used to scare me when I got home from work by leaping out of the foxhole he’d dug in our yard. I miss those days, though I’m glad to say we filled in the foxhole before anyone broke any bones stepping in it inadvertently (nominee for person most likely to have done  that = me).

I miss the days when he dug tunnels and canals and poured water all over. A filthy, dirty, muddy, mucky kid–that’s the mark of a good summer day in my book.

So when I tell you that I feel as though I’m now sitting in a hole in my backyard that I dug over the last year or two–not big enough to stand up in, just big enough to sit in–you should understand a few things.

1. I had a lot of help digging this hole.

2. It isn’t muddy because we haven’t had much rain AT ALL lately.

3. I’m actually sitting inside my kitchen as I’m writing this.

4. It wasn’t easy, digging this hole, but I’m very happy right now, sitting in it.

I could have, a year ago, or two years ago, or three years ago, applied for traditional funding for a sabbatical, and because I have a good project and because I write good proposals, I probably could be on a fully funded sabbatical this semester, teaching zero classes.  The UW Colleges doesn’t have enough funding to fund very many sabbaticals, but it still funds a few (three this semester), and if you take one semester instead of a year, you get your full salary and benefits.

I took a full year ten years ago, traditionally funded. My husband and I figured out how to make the 35% pay cut work. It worked.

This time, for a variety of reasons, the traditional funding route did not appeal to me at all. (As I’m spending my MWF on campus teaching two classes, I continue to reflect on WHY that did not appeal to me at all.  Will probably write about it soon.)

Instead, I chose the route of trying to raise my replacement costs. I’d hoped to raise around $24,000 before July 1 of this year, and if I had, I’d be teaching zero classes this fall.

It turns out there are parts of fundraising and being a grant-hound I’m good at, and then other parts, not so much.

I think this is symbolic of something.

I think this is symbolic of something.


But with a lot of help,  I made it halfway, and I count myself lucky to be in a place where my dean agreed that the money I’d raised could “buy me out of” two of the classes I would normally teach, and where my business office geniuses figured out the logistics.

Teaching zero classes for a semester would be a terrific break and give me ample time for my project.

But teaching two classes instead of four is lovely. And it gives me a good chunk of time.

So, for example, today I get to go have lunch with a friend and talk to her about what kind of creativity workshop she might benefit from.

That’s my project–designing creativity workshops for businesses, organizations, and individuals.  Right now, I’m in the surveying/needs assessment phase.

At the end of my half-battical (because I made it  halfway, get it?), I’ll be ready to work with people to help them become more creative in measurable, useful, and wonderful ways.

Thus all my funders, all the people who helped me dig this hole–thank you.

One example I will have, henceforth, of BEING creative is the fundraising I’ve done, which is, of course, one of the big reasons I was so drawn to the idea of doing it.

Today’s creativity reading (I’m trying to get caught up on all the web pages, blogs, articles, and books I’ve put on my reading list) is “Twelve Things You Were Not Taught About Creative Thinking in School.”    Several of them seem relevant to what I went through as I was fundraising–#2 “creative thinking is work” (yes, exhausting–I sort of collapsed from it in early July). #7 “expect the experts to be negative” was truer than I expected. I had a ton of support, but there are people who JUST DIDN’T GET IT, why I was not drawn at all to seeking traditional sabbatical funding.  #8 “trust your instincts” is what I was doing, what I’m still doing. I don’t really understand all of why my gut was telling me LOUDLY to raise my own funds, but I listened.

#9 “There is no such thing as failure” is a comfort to me, as I tell myself that halfway is terrific. It doesn’t feel like failure, having cobbled together the $11,534 needed to replace me in the classroom.

And finally for today, #10, “You do not see things as they are; you see them as you are.”

And right now, I see myself blissed out in a hole in my own backyard.

This is symbolic of how awesome my yard is.

This is symbolic of how awesome my yard is.

Other Ways I am a Bad Person

High on the snark and humor index, low on the logic and evidence, Allison Benedikt’s “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person” made the rounds on my Facebook newsfeed last week. One person sort of apologized for the provocative title, but the whole piece is provocative, really.  The essence is that public schools are good for the common good and thus we should all be connected to public schools so closely that we work to make them better. That’s a valid argument, one my Aunt Becky has made for as long as I can remember, but in Benedikt’s hands, sentences like this:  “chances are that your spawn will be perfectly fine at a crappy public school,” make me wonder what the target and purpose really were.

Friends who posted it seemed to be taking it seriously. In the event it was in any way intended seriously, let me say the following.

I believe in public education. I am against voucher schools. I vote for people who want to fund education and don’t want tax dollars going to private schools.

At the moment, my son goes to a public school, and I volunteer there.

But if, on balance, I decide there’s a better match for him elsewhere, he’s outta there. We won’t make that decision impulsively or quickly or blithely, but when we stopped homeschooling him, and sent him to public school, we told him (and ourselves) that what mattered was whether he was learning and whether he was happy….That’s still what matters, as far as I’m concerned.

I don’t care if that makes me a bad person. Bad citizen. Don’t care. It makes me a good mother, and I care much, much more about that.  Besides, if he’s happy, and reaching anywhere close to his full potential, the world will be better off.

Here are some other ways I’m a bad person.

1. I spend more per week on my food budget than I would if I were on food stamps. I guess if I really cared about the state of nutrition for our working and nonworking poor, I would eat a lot more beans and advocate more on behalf of the poor. I could share recipes with Allison Benedikt, who, I’m sure, cares as much about this government function as she cares about public schools.


2. If I get arrested and have to go to trial, I will corral all my finances for the best lawyer I can afford. I suppose if I weren’t such a bad person, I would rely on the public defender, who’s likely overstretched.  Sitting in jail, I’d have a lot of time to advocate for better justice for people who can’t afford lawyers. Maybe my cellie would be Allison (no last names needed, if we’re on the same cell block), and we could co-author articles.

3. My salary as a UW System professor isn’t stellar, but I have pretty good benefits, so I get pretty good health care. If I weren’t such a bad person, I would limit myself to what someone without insurance could access with help from state or federal programs, but there you have it.

I also buy books and movies that are not available through my public library system, and am pickier about what seafood I eat than the FDA would indicate is necessary.

Just a bad person, through and through.


Couldn’t we all just encourage each other to contribute to our communities in public and private ways as best we can to make everything better for everyone?


If Allison Benedikt’s purpose was to convince me to keep my son in public school from here on out, it didn’t work. If her purpose was to make me feel bad for homeschooling him for his kindergarten year, it didn’t work. Make me feel bad for keeping homeschooling open as an option in the future? Didn’t work.

If her purpose was to give a snarky huzzah to parents who keep their kids in public schools partly out of a sense of “the greater good,” it may have worked.

But since the only evidence she presented was a well-written bit of autobiography, I suspect the purpose was to be a writer and express herself and get some attention, and I would say that worked.

Follow up a provocative title with a provocative column and provoke?  It worked on me, anyhow.