Thursday, February 23, 2017

Over the River and Through the Woods

We finally made it to see a performance at Ewing's 1867 Sanctuary performing arts venue. We were married in the 1867 Sanctuary in 1993 when it was still Ewing Presbyterian Church. If you are interested in the sordid tale of how it went from being a church to becoming a performing arts venue, google it. A couple of years ago it rose like a phoenix and became a fabulous performing arts center, where worship still takes place at least once a month, along with weddings and funerals.

We saw Joe DiPietro's "Over the River and Through the Woods." For Valentine's month, Theater To Go is pairing a play by a famous playwright alongside a play with a new playwright. To complete the pairing on March 3 they will do a staged reading of "Lawn Ornaments" by Mark Wiesenberg. He choose "Over the River..." as his pairing. Unfortunately we cannot see "Lawn Ornaments."

"Over the River..." is a loosely autobiographical play about Joe and his four grandparents. After his parents Jean and Lou married, their parents became close friends. Something I wish had happened in my life for my parents. He had Sunday dinners with his grandparents, and thought it quite normal that everyone had dinner every week with all four of their grandparents.

Lou and Jean are my parents' neighbors and came to the staged reading with them. The focus of the talk back shifted from the show we saw, to the behind-the-scenes of how much of the play was real, and how much was not. His mom said the scene where while playing Trivial Pursuit they came up with the right answer by the most circuitous path possible ("It was the one with the ears who dated the one with the face" and "he had the same name as that guy we met in FoodTown" "It was Shop Rite." ... ) as was the scene where the young guy had an anxiety attack.

I love it when audiences have a chance to break that fourth wall and ask the cast and director questions. It makes for a richer theater going experience.

Newsies -- the movie

Last night's trip to the AMC Hamilton 24 movie theater was a trip back in time -- to April 2013 to be more precise. That's when we saw "Newsies" on Broadway. Ashley was almost 11. As my blog post shows I found an awesome coupon, and great seats -- 5th row mezzanine. These comments reinforce why I blog -- so I 
can jog my own memory.

I've been hearing about the movie version for a while. They brought back the original leads (Jeremy Jordan and Kara Lindsay). Turns out while we did see Kara Lindsay on Broadway, we saw Corey Cott as Jack Kelly, not Jordan. 

I looked up the filming of this show and found a Playbill article about it. The play started as a limited run in New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse -- a theater I was was a little closer and easier to get to. The one show we did see we hit so much traffic it has turned us off from returning. The shame of it is the return trip was pretty easy.

The show was very similar to what we remembered -- though they seem to have added a solo by Crutchy in the Refuge that was added for the national tour. We recognized some of the actors from when we saw it (such as Kara Lindsay), but debated if we saw some of the others (most notably Crutchie, who I remembered reminding me of Chris Kubat, yet the actor in the movie did not -- I was right on that one; Ashley was right on Joseph Pulitzer).

A surprise for the evening was bumping into my sister Melissa and her kids, Hayden and Aimee. It was not a surprise that they saw the movie, only that we were at the same performance. We bumped into each other outside the theater. When we walked into the theater about 15 minutes before showtime instead of looking for the anticipated two seats together, we suddenly wanted five seats together. The theater was pretty full. We were about to take seats closer than we really wanted when a friend of a friend told us they were opening up another theater on the other side of the 24-plex. There were only two people in that theater, so we had a choice of seats. After grabbing prime seats in the center, we settled down for the movie.

Anyone who goes to the movies will tell you a 7 PM show doesn't really start until at least 7:15, maybe 7:20. With a run time of 2 hours and 24 minutes, I was gearing up for a late night (but totally worth it). Much to my surprise, the movie started exactly at 7. I guess that's what happens when the movie costs much more than normal (we always go to the cheap showing for $6.75 each, this one was all tickets at $21.38, plus another $1.50 each because I bought them online in case they sold out like the other ones did that week). The extra theater was between half and 2/3 full -- a comfortable amount.

If I had to add a negative, it was accepting 33-year old Jeremy Jordan as a 17-year old. There is a subplot where Snyder from the Refuge was trying to capture Jack Kelly to take him back. Dude, he is clearly an adult.

The movie was filmed on September 11. 2016 in front a life audience of fansies and reviewers in Los Angeles. The audience was in love with the show before they walked in the door. Their energy was contagious. Much to the embarrassment of my teenager, I found myself clapping at the end of every song, as if I was in the theater, too. A friend admitted to singing along to the songs.

I joked we paid less to see a Broadway show live. That was an exception. Clearly between ticket prices, and the cost for going into NYC, bringing theater to everyone, even at $21.38 a ticket, is a bargain.

Multi-Cultural Worship

I've often heard it said segregation is still practiced in most churches around the country. It is the last place where it is accepted and very normal. People tend to worship with people like them. I googled the phrase "segregation in churches today" and found many academic matches. 

But that is not the point of this post. 

Today I want to praise Pastor Karen Hernandez-Granzen and all she has done in Westmister Presbyterian Church in Trenton. She has made it her mission to practice multi-cultural worship every week. To serve the underrepresented (including those in prison) through activism. To make her church a place where everyone truly feels welcome.

The church's website says it's mission comes from Revelation 7:9-10

"After I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
I recently attended a Sunday morning service because of Pastor Karen's Facebook post (see, social media can be used to attract new worshipers). She was honoring Black History Month with Rev. Nadira preaching a sermon on "I am Enough" -- about how God does not call perfect people to spread his message, but He calls ordinary people he makes extraordinary (remember Moses?). She said often we give excuses where Blame, Name, and are Lame rather than getting out and doing things. As usual, I should have taken notes. It was based on Psalm 18:35: 

You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.
Then Stephani breezed through the sanctuary as a slave woman and (seemingly) effortlessly led us in singing Wade in the Water. She had us all mesmerized

Back to worship. The service included pictures and video from activism Pastor Karen and others participated in earlier in the week. She really epitomizes the biblical notion we are the hands and feet of Christ (numerous places including 1 Corinthians 12:27).

When I started to write this I was guessing Pastor Karen had been pastor about 10-15 years. She is very youthful and charismatic and energetic all in one. I was surprised to see she has been pastor there since 1995 (22 years now and going strong). She took over a church in jeopardy of closing its doors and made it vibrant through her passion. Some of the things she incorporated were aspects of truly multi-cultural worship -- services include traditional hymns from my youth (the "blue" hymnal) and more modern music. Hymns are sung in English, Spanish, and probably other languages. One song was also done in sign language (led by Pastor Karen). When the Lord's Prayer was recited, Pastor Karen encouraged us to say it in our own language, and the way we prefer to recite it. It reminded me of a conversation I had recently with someone who said while worshiping in Ireland they were surprised the Lord's Prayer was said in everyone's choice of language, and without the pauses we are used to doing as we say it in unison. 

It was beautiful.

On my way out the door I received a bag telling me I was a snowflake -- unique and special in God's eyes. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Learning I am Old

There comes a point in our lives when we discover we are older than we think we are. Hopefully older than we act. I had two such occasions in the past few days. One humorous. One not at all humorous.

I'll start with the serious one, and end with the lighter one. The serious one is very serious. My really, really good friend Carin has leukemia. The doctors can get her into remission, but can ONLY cure her with a bone marrow transplant. 

By now you are rolling your eyes and saying, "how does Carin's situation make YOU feel old? This isn't about you!" And you would be right to think that, and to cast judgement on me. How this makes me feel old is the bone marrow registry folks will only test potential donors between the ages of 18 and 44. At 47, I am too old. I can't remember ever being told I was too old to be able to do something. All those years of wishing to be older so I could drive, or go away to college were wasted.

For Carin and others, if you are between the ages of 18 and 44 you can Be The Match. Carin is humorously blogging her adventures HERE with such topics as Mr. Fancy Pants Man and, on a more serious note, milestones (such as her husband's birthday) that continue to happen while she spends a month getting her numbers up so she can come home. 

In order to be tested go to . It is easy to become someone's super hero.

Now for the lighter story. My niece's elementary school is launching a program called GrandPals where older members of the community are partnered up with youngsters to read to them. Guess what the minimum age is to be a GrandPal? Ding ding ding if you guessed 47! Way to make me feel old!

Back to the serious ... please read the Be the Match website to learn more about saving someone's life.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Never Enough

Becoming politically involved in 2017 reminds me of when I was striving to be environmentally active -- I could never do enough, I felt I was never doing it right.

In the case of the environment I would be proud of my overflowing recycling bins, and compost bucket, as well as my hardly used trash containers.

But it wasn't enough.

I was excited when the grocery store started collecting plastic bags -- mind you I had long given up using plastic bags, but now the grocery store also collected the giant plastic used to wrap bulk piles of toilet paper and paper towels (buying in bulk is better, right?).

But it wasn't enough.

I bought a fuel efficient car nine years ago and still drive it (not buying a new car should be good). I couldn't afford the extra $5,000 for the Prius.

But it wasn't enough.

The more I tried to be good for the environment, there was always someone a couple of steps ahead of me making me feel shame because I was doing wasn't good enough. Instead of recognizing we are on the same side, only they are getting A+++s in the class and I am only getting a B+, or on a good day an A-, I felt I could never achieve those extra pluses and lost my enthusiasm.

Sure, I still recycle. My trash bucket is only filled six times a year (not the 1-2 times a year of the overachievers). I drop off my rags rather than throwing them out (only to learn now third world nations are overrun with our good deeds). I recycle my plastic at the grocery store. No matter what I did, I didn't feel worthy of calling myself an environmentalist.

I bring this up now because I have the same feelings about activism. 

I marched with millions of others around the world. But our marches were non-violent.

It wasn't good enough.

I sign petitions in the past I would have deleted.

It isn't good enough.

I attend a prayer vigil.

It isn't good enough.

I work up the courage to call my representatives. Before I do, I learn it isn't good enough.

What is good enough in this age? Showing up to stand in front of my senator's office. It is only an hour a week (plus a train fare, train ride, and other incidentals). 

Even this needs taking it up a notch: invite the media; if they don't show up immediately send them pictures, videos, and information about the event and hope they record it.

Meanwhile, I need energy to build my business, to encourage Don to find a new job, to help Ashley with school. 

I was feeling zapped yesterday and thought "tomorrow I will take the day off from thinking about politics."

Wrong answer.

Being able to take time off from the fight just shows my "white privilege." Therefore by doing nothing for a day and recharging I am not doing enough.

I would love it if one of my posts would go viral. Please share with others. Now more than ever, we need to support each other.

Anything we do, especially if it is more than we used to do, is good enough. It is a step towards improving. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Robert Burns Night

When a friend invited me over midweek for a celebration of Robert Burns my first question was "who is Robert Burns?" followed by "why are we celebrating on a Wednesday night?"

My better educated friends recognize Robert Burns as the Scottish poet. And the midweek celebration was to fall on his actual birthday (January 25).

According to the official Robert Burns' website:

The annual celebratory tribute to the life, works and spirit of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). Celebrated on, or about, the Bard's birthday, January 25th, Burns Suppers range from stentoriously formal gatherings of esthetes and scholars to uproariously informal rave-ups of drunkards and louts. Most Burns Suppers fall in the middle of this range, and adhere, more or less, to some sort of time honoured form which includes the eating of a traditional Scottish meal, the drinking of Scotch whisky, and the recitation of works by, about, and in the spirit of the Bard.

These friends opted for something in-between, leaning closer to "infomal rave-ups of drunkards and louts" than "gatherings for asthetes and scholars." As it fell during finals week for Ashley, and the day before Don was going in for a routine procedure, I went alone. I reconnected with some of Stacy's athletic friends, and met new ones. 

I should have asked someone to take a picture of me. I wore my kilt.

Stacy made a haggis she procured from a Scottish shop that seems to exist solely for Robert Burns' Day. We did not discuss what haggis is exactly, but I can tell you it is tastier than I would have imagined.

Speeches and toasts were made. Candy did a great job reading in the original dialect, even though none of us speak Scottish. It added some flair to the event.

 Stacy served it with mashed potatoes, rhubarb, and plenty of alcohol.

Stacy's party inspired me. I have not entertained much in the past few years for whatever reason -- the house is too messy, it costs too much to entertain, would anyone really come, it is too much work. Stacy with her tiny house and her big heart showed me the fun outweighs the worry.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

All Four

There was a day last week when I worked all four of my piecemeal jobs.

1) Interviewed someone for a story for Community News
2) Edited a book for Open Door Publications
3) Substitute taught for half a day
4) Spoke with a freelance client about his family history

It was an eye opening day. 

I realized after having written over 500 stories over the past 4 years, I don't have the passion for writing for them as I did in the beginning. I interview a local business, try to find an interesting way to write about their business, hand in the story, have the editor grumble about something days after I hand it in (but they need the answer immediately for their deadline) and wait weeks to be paid. Repeat the following month. Sometimes no complaints. Rarely any praise or encouragement.

I realized I love working with authors to make their dreams come true, but also that I need to become an author someday.

I realized I enjoy subbing every now and again, but not enough to have my own class or to sub more than once a week. The pay isn't great enough and it takes away from my own business.

I realized I love talking to people about their stories, but that I need a different business model. I feel the fairest model is to charge an hourly rate with caps, but that seems to scare off most people. They hear "hourly rate" but not "caps" and fear this will cost tens of thousands of dollars. I've contemplated having them put a price on it and paying me what they feel it is worth, but that is a huge leap of faith. Can that kind of payment system even work in the real world? What is a fair price to put on preserving your family's story?

These are just a few of the thoughts I had on that day. The biggest one, of course, is what to do? What can I do in 2017 to make it a more professionally, financially, and spiritually fulfilling year? Can all three coexist?