Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Husband, a Hurricane Hero

On Wednesday night I attended a concert at Grace Lutheran Church in New Orleans. Grace is located on Canal street, right off the 610 freeway, and was flooded with probably 10 feet or more of water.The last time I was there there was mold growing on the ceiling, and stacks of ruined organ pieces piled high. It was wonderful to see this church being restored.

The event was a concert of Hope and Healing given by Ken Medema, who sang several songs that he had written, and then spent the last half of his concert hearing people's stories and making up a song about them on the spot. The best song was one about Winnebagos from Minnesota bearing snow shovels. Snow shovels? Well, what better thing to use to shovel out the muck and mud from your home after it's been sitting underwater for several weeks? And you can't buy them around here!

One of the songs he sang was about the call of ordinary people to be heroes. Surely you've read stories in the news about ordinary people who behaved heroically in the days, weeks and months following Katrina's arrival. You probably didn't hear about my neighbors, who took in their family whose homes had flooded: 4 adults and 4 children (added to their own 4 children) and NEVER ONCE complained. Who refused our offers of our guest room.

You also probably haven't heard about my husband, but I think he behaved rather heroically, and I'm going to brag about him for the rest of this post.

When Katrina started making a beeline for New Orleans he was out of town, in Mobile, at a conference. He called and said "leave now." So MQ and I headed up to Kentucky with our friends who had just arrived, hoping to spend a long weekend with us before our friend shipped to Iraq. Instead, we spent a long weekend on the Army Post watching CNN and awaiting news.

My husband returned home, and did all the things I did not think to do. He grabbed the scrapbooks. He videotaped all our belongings. He took our love letters out of the back of the closet, the old yearbooks out of the attic. He helped neighbors move things in out their backyards. And then he "evacuated." He went to stay with some friends in Folsom, Louisiana. I looked at a map, and yelled at him on the phone "that's not evacuating! That's crossing the street!!!" Sure, he got out of the mandatory evacuation area, but he was by no means out of the blast of the hurricane. He hunkered down there, staying with Boy Scouts and Red Cross professionals, wanting to be of help in the days after the storm.

When the storm passed they went out with chainsaws and started clearing streets. They cleared a path so the sheriff's officers could get out of the station where they had hunkered down. He cleared out a path to our home, and to other homes. He started trying to locate the friends and people from our church that we knew had stayed behind. Then, he took the church directory, and checked the home of every single person on it. He took notes of what needed to be done, and dispatched the motley crew of workers from our congregation to cut trees off of roofs, put tarps over holes, check on missing people. He would leave notes at homes, telling people were to find them. When we were finally (and sporadically) able to speak on the phone, he would give me updates, and I would call and e-mail people to let them know the damage on their house. He would check on homes of other friends and acquaintances that I and other people passed on to him. A friend of ours contacted us when her boss could not find his mother who had been evacuated from a hospital in New Orleans. He went to local hospitals and looked for her (she was finally found in Atlanta). He took his turn as a guard of our neighborhood, keeping out looters (this is when we discovered that we are the only people in the neighborhood who don't own guns!). He helped gather food from every one's dying freezers, and at the end of the day they would gather together, this crew of 40 or so people, and feast on whatever they could find... from steak to MREs. My husband, terrified of heights, stood on roofs with a chainsaw.

In those weeks after Katrina, when MQ and I had moved on to stay with my parents until it was deemed safe for us to return, my husband was a hero. He helped many, many people. He brought a community together, and those people were heroes, too.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Read this book

Thank you all for your kind words about yesterday's love letter to New Orleans. More to come on that.

But right now I have to tell you to read the book 1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose. Chris Rose is a local columnist who has written so wonderfully and elegantly and heartbreakingly and honestly about life in New Orleans after Katrina, and his battle with depression. In fact, he was filmed to be on the Oprah show about post Katrina mental health issues that aired on the 29th. And was told he could not mention his book as it would appear that Oprah was endorsing it if he mentioned it. So he didn't mention the book, but he also refused to sign the form that said he would not discuss or write about the filming for her show. So perhaps he ended up on the cutting room floor. I don't know, I didn't watch.

You can read about his Oprah experience here.

And please buy his book. You will laugh and cry and see things in a whole new light. Seriously. If you think my post was good, well, I've got nothing on Chris Rose. Last winter I won a theatre award, and the award was nice and all, but CHRIS ROSE handed it to me. I think I was more excited about that. We owned the self published and shorter version of this book and made all our visitors read it. We have just mailed it to a friend. I guess now we will have to buy the new one. I'm OK with that.

***edited to add: I just checked Oprah's website to try to figure out if Chris Rose made it on or not, and his book is listed as an additional resource, and if you click on the link it says "As seen on Oprah." So maybe she decided to read it and then endorse it. I don't know. But don't take Oprah's word for it. TAKE MINE. Read it. All of you. Now.***

oh ho! and I just discovered he has a blog through the Times Picayune website. Fantastic. Here it is.

Also, please check out what Jen M over at Get in the Car! is doing to help out Habitat in New Orleans. It made me cry. She's trying to start a philanthropic movement here in blogland, and I applaud her. So hie thee to her website, please.

I've cried a bunch today. It's time for bed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Know What It Means to Love New Orleans

My Dear New Orleans,

I was cautious when I met you. I knew to like you would mean to hope. To hope for a commitment. To hope for long term. The ultimate live in situation.

You welcomed us with a lush greenness, much like I was used to from my first home. The tall pine trees reminded me of summers at camp. The Live Oaks with Spanish Moss were like something out of a dream.

You shared with us your history.

That first weekend you covered me with sweetness.
Or maybe that was just the dusting of powdered sugar from the beignets. Yum.

You dazzled me with twinkling lights.

You beckoned me to come closer. You whispered promises and hope. A new home. A new life. A new chance.

We moved in. We loved our neighborhood. You shared your wide collection of animals, many of which live in our yard.
You have a reputation for being a party animal, and surely you know how to laissez le bon temps roullez.

But you are a family town. You throw parties (and beads!) for the kiddos like I've never seen before!

We enjoyed trips to the zoo, the aquarium, the Global Wildlife Center. You wowed my daughter with up close encounters with her favorite animals.

We ate food we never thought we'd eat, and we liked it!
And we danced! Oh how we have danced!

At the Jazz Festival, the French Quarter Festival, Lundi Gras, Mardi Gras, second lines, concerts in the park, musicians on the street, WWOZ. Oh how we have danced. You taught me about Cajun music, and Zydeco, and the joy of a Brass Band.
I've danced to the sounds of a washboard and spoons. You know I love to dance!

Our love was still young, our honeymoon not yet over, when Katrina came to town. She ripped us apart, this usurper. Two years ago she turned our world upside.

And the world cried with us.

We separated, but not for long. For you were home.

It has been hard. It has certainly brought out the worst in us, and many, many others, at times. But it has also been a testament to community. The way people drew together to support. To rebuild. Those who have stayed even when they had no house, because their hearts needed to be home. Here, with you.

It's been work.

And it will never be the same, although sometimes we almost forget. When we're dancing. When we're gazing up at the trees. When we are breathing in the hot and sticky air. When we enjoy being home. But then we want to revisit some of our favorite haunts. And they are gone.

We want to call an old friend, and they have left. And so we remember.

And we must not forget. We must not let the world forget. There are lessons that must be learned. Changes that must be made

Love and joy and music that must be shared

I know what it means to miss New Orleans. And I know what it means to love you.

With all heart,

Painted Maypole

Monday, August 27, 2007

false hope

My husband told me today that Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and head of the conservative Saddleback church, was backing Barack Obama for president. I gave a holler of jubilation.

Unfortunately, my husband appears to be misinformed.

I got online and tried digging around to find the actual news story. It's not out there. Alas. What I did find was that there was a huge hullabaloo last December when Obama spoke at a conference at Saddleback about AIDS. He was called by conservatives "evil" and "against Christ." Their largest outcry, of course, was that he voted in support of legal abortions. Next in line was his support of gay marriage. Well, call me evil, too, then.

Several articles I read cried out that abortion is the biggest moral issue we face today. Abortion? Really? Not war? Not poverty? Not corruption among our elected officials? Not allowing millions to suffer and die due to lack of access to health care? Not homelessness? Not greed? Not child abuse? Not failing education systems?

Why is it that this ONE thing trumps all others?

As a liberal Christian, I struggle with the idea of abortion. Therefore it is not, frankly, a deciding factor for me. I think that most people who support legalized abortion (which I think is different than "supporting abortion") feel strongly about working towards better education and opportunities in an attempt to lesson the number of abortions.

It is infuriating to me that people will get so hung up on one issue, and fail to see a bigger picture.

Rick Warren is a pretty conservative guy, and I don't always agree with him. He also has some really great theological points to make. But I admire him most for breaking against the conservative mold to speak out against the AIDS crisis and for allowing a liberal Democrat to speak at his church (not to his congregation, but to a conference, Warren points out), and defending his decision to do so.

Now if only he would actually stand behind Obama for the presidential race. That would be amazing.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

a late summer afternoon's dream

There is a house not too far from us that has a large cage out front containing 3 peacocks. I have yet to figure out why someone keeps peacocks in a cage in their front yard, but every time MQ and I drive past it we look to see what the peacocks are doing. Usually they are doing nothing, but occasionally we see one or more with their feathers all spread out. But because this is so rare, I've taken to guessing what the peacocks are doing. Things like handstands or building a house. MQ thinks this is hysterical, and protests that they can't do these things without hands.

One day I insisted that the peacocks would be dancing when we passed by. MQ laughed and said "nooooo........." I told her "Just you wait, they'll be dancing. I know it." When we passed they were, predictably, sleeping. "They weren't dancing, they were sleeping!" MQ announced triumphantly. "Ahhhh...." I said, "but they were dreaming about dancing."

"They weren't dreaming!"

"How can you tell?"

"There weren't clouds over their heads. When you dream, there are little clouds over your head."
Apparently peacocks actually DO dance, which I learned while I was searching for these pictures. I think it's what they do when they open their feathers and shake them for the pretty ladies. If only my husband danced as well.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mission Impossible?

I have this propensity to "volunteer" for things I never meant to do. This sometimes ends well. I'm hoping this one does.

When I first started blogging (in June! Oh so long ago!) several of the blogs I read would have these "Monday Missions" posts. I remember in particular a week when everyone wrote a poem. Hmmm... I wondered what this was all about (I was new, and slow on the uptake). Finally, I discovered that they were being motivated by Jennifer. As luck would have it, I found this out on the last day she was hosting the Monday Missions. I posted a comment somewhere along the lines of "can anyone participate? or is it over?" At least that's what I remember commenting. I suppose I could go back and look. Anyhow, a week or so ago Jennifer e-mailed me, about how I had offered to HOST the Monday Missions. Ummmmm...... So I looked into it a bit. They were started over at the garden of nna mmoy as a way to encourage people to write their blog posts in a different style. Looked like fun. And I'm a sucker. So I said "what the heck, sounds like fun" and agreed to try to host these babies for the month of September.

So, in a nutshell, Monday Missions are this: Write a post in the style for the day. Be creative. Make a link back to here, and let me know, and my post will link to all of your Monday Missions posts (I could use some help on suggestions for how to do this... I would love to do a Mr. Linky kind of thing... if it won't cost me anything, because I'm broke! Any help from fellow bloggers who have done this kind of thing greatly appreciated) I'll put up a reminder a day or two beforehand (sort of like Julie does for the Humpday Hmmm... series. )

Your Missions, should you choose to accept them, are:
9/3 Song Rewrite (take a known song/tune and write new lyrics)
9/10 Horoscope
9/17 Resume
9/24 Letter of Rejection

Participate in as many or as few as you'd like. The idea is to have fun and stretch your writing style. Cool? Cool.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How to be a good neighbor

This is part of Julie's Hump Day Hmmm... Being Good Neighbors. It's not particularly deep, but it is heartfelt.

How to be a good neighbor
(a list inspired by the actions of my fabulous neighbors, who I can only hope think I'm a good neighbor, too)
-Loan tools, ladders, fertilizer spreaders, lawn mowers and pressure washers
-Watch neighbor's house while they are away (includes bringing in mail, taking out garbage, collecting supposedly stopped newspapers from the end of driveway, and turning air conditioning back on before neighbor returns home)
-Offer to watch neighbor's child fairly often
-Never assume that neighbor will watch your children, and only ask occasionally. Also, take neighbor up on her offer to watch your children every now and then so that said neighbor does not feel so guilty about all the times she has taken you up on your offer
-Bring over bags of outgrown clothes for neighbor's child
-Bring over outgrown bikes for same child
-When the fence between homes is destroyed in a hurricane, agree with neighbors to leave it down so that children can run free between the yards
-Never actually let your children run free between the yards unless they are indeed playing with the neighbors
-Help neighbor clear yard of debris after hurricane
-Invite neighbor to enjoy generator-fed room airconditioner after hurricane
-Occasionally mow the bit of neighbor's lawn that directly abuts your yard
-Trim the neighbors yard while you have your weed wacker out, just because you feel like being nice
-Always have a freezer full of Popsicles ready for the hot and sweaty playing masses
-Offer a drink to the mother of Popsicle eating child. Water is good, the occasional wine even better
-Have lots of snacks
-When neighbor child is playing in your home, tell the mother "she's fine here. You can go get some things done at home if you'd like. Or you're welcome to stay here and chat"
-Always be willing to visit with neighbor when she is in dire need of adult conversation
-Have a large freezer in your garage that you allow neighbor to pack to the gills when their own fridge and freezer unexpectedly die
-Never complain about neighbors unmowed lawn, excessive weeds, or garbage cans not properly stored in garage
-Occassionally bring over fresh baked goods
-Always invite neighbor child over for family birthday celebrations

Do you see that we have the most fabulous neighbors? We are so lucky! I try to return the fabulousness as much as possible.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

That Woman

I never thought I would be that woman. The one who said "oh, when I lose 5 or 10 pounds...." I never expected to have a closet full of clothes that I hope to fit back into some day.

But, I am that woman.

I am not fat. No, and I won't ever say that I am. In fact, I rarely talk about weight at all because I have dear friends who really struggle with their weight, and it feels like a slap in their face to talk about it. I'm told frequently that I'm thin. And mostly, I am. In fact, I weigh only a few pounds more than I did when I graduated college. The weight has, however, rearranged itself.

I've been blessed with pretty good genes. I was super skinny growing up, and in high school hid behind over sized shirts (if I were that thin now, I'd slip on the skinny jeans and strappy tank tops! But back then, in the days before Kate Moss and Calista Flockhart, curvy was in, and curvy I was not. I had a boy draw a board in one of my yearbooks, because my chest was that flat. Nice, huh?)

I've curved out a bit (in fact, my husband says "if only that boy could see you now!"). But the area I wish wasn't quite so curved is my belly. It has always been the place where I held any excess weight, but even more so now that I've borne a child.

I'm tired of being this woman who wants to weigh less, but doesn't do much about it. And so.... I am putting myself on a mission. To lose the weight, yes, but really, to feel good about the weight that I am at. This is the key thing for me. I need to lose the expectation that i will look like a super thin super model. I don't think I will ever again wear a bikini (I think of how I lost 10 college pounds so I could wear a bikini on my honeymoon, and how self-conscious I felt then. Oh, if I knew then what I knew now I would have worn that little number with pride!). I'm OK with that. But I want to feel good about my body. So... I am going to try to lose weight, yes. But weight is just the number, the easy thing to measure. I am also going to work on improving my posture, which is a problem. I am going to build strength in my arms and back. I want to feel good in this body. My plan is that by Christmas, if I am not on my way to losing this little bit, that I will get rid of those clothes I am hanging on to "in hopes" That I will readjust my thinking of what my body can be. Because I don't want to be unrealistic. And I don't want to spend the rest of my life staring wistfully at the lovely clothes I can't wear. But I also don't want to accept something that I can change. And if I find I can change it, then hurrah for me. But if I can't.... well, what I have is not bad. It's not. I just want to be more confident, more comfortable, and to know that I have accepted my body not because it's "ideal," but because it is what it is, and longing for something else isn't worth the emotional effort.

But wanting something and not trying to get it, well, I'm sick of that. I'm changing that, starting now.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mary Poppins

I was intrigued when Veronica, over at Toddled Dredge, put forth the Before There was Disney Reading Challenge. The idea was to read books that had been made into children's movies - to find the book behind the audio/visual sensation. I am a bit intimidated by writing this, as I am rather out of practice of writing papers about books.

I chose to "read" the book of one of my favorite movies, Mary Poppins, by P.L. (Pamela Lyndon) Travers. I put "read" in quotes because I ended up listening to the book on tape. Even unabridged, a book on tape is not quite the same thing as reading it yourself, because not only do the author's words create pictures in your head, but the reader's voice conjures pictures and adds a certain tone. That being said, I really enjoyed the reader, British actress Sophie Thompson.

It has been a while since I have watched the whole Mary Poppins movie. MQ watches it now and then, and I will watch a little with her, but usually I use that time to get things done around the house. Very few of the adventures in the book actually make it into the movie, and, of course, they have changed a bit in the translation.

The Bert character, played in the movie by the fabulous Dick Van Dyke, is a small character in the book. However, he very notably appears in the only adventure we see Mary Poppins undertake without the children. When Mary comes to take Bert to their weekly date for tea, Bert finds he has no money. Both Bert and Mary seem quite surprised when they step into a chalk painting, and enjoy a lovely tea and carousel ride (no dancing penguins here, sorry).

The thing that struck me most about the book was how cross Mary is so often, and how many things she said to the children that were just appalling - things that parenting books rail against, such as telling Michael that "the sight of him was more than any self-respecting person could be expected to stand."

There were times when I wondered why Jane and Michael liked her at all, apart from the adventures they went on with her. This bothered me, because I liked to think of Mary Poppins as firm but loving, but she could be rather mean. I wonder if perhaps I had read the book, rather than listening to it in the car (which often means stopping in the midst of a chapter, etc) I would have made more of a connection between the adventures and lessons the children were learning from them. Also, when reading a book I may go back and read a piece again to make a connection, and don't do that when listening.

The adventures in the book are both lovely and terrifying. There is the star that greats the children while Christmas shopping and receives all her gifts for free (lovely). Then there is the woman in the bakery who breaks off her fingers and feeds them lovingly to Jane, Michael, and their twin siblings, yet yells and demeans her own children, and later has Mary Poppins steal the paper stars that come on the gingerbread loaves from the boxes where the children hide them, so they can be glued onto the sky (terrifying AND lovely, in turns).

And in the end, the wind changes, and Mary Poppins leaves, just as she said she would. The children are changed, I suppose, by their adventures, but there is not the change in the parents that we see in the movie. The movie sort of lovingly pokes fun at the parents in their distracted and workaholic oblivion to their children, and they are taught by Mary Poppins to see and appreciate the wonder of it all. The book seemed a bit kinder to the parents, who chose to have more children rather than the prettiest house on Cherry Tree Lane, until the very end, where the mother is so distraught over Mary's leaving only because she has left her high and dry with no one with watch the children, and they must be left with another one of the servants while Mrs. Banks keeps her appointment.

I enjoyed listening to the story, and hearing new adventures. Some of the phrases and pictures that P.L. Travers creates are fantastic. And yet... at the end I felt sad, because I wanted to love Mary Poppins even more, and I found her instead to be a crank... a crank who enjoyed some fun adventures, true, but who nonetheless seemed dissattisfied with the world. Perhaps I was to feel that she was dissatisfied because those around her didn't see the joy and the adventure all around, sad because people lost the ability to talk to the animals just as the twins do before they turn 1, frustrated by the commonplace when there is adventure to be had. Instead, I just felt like Michael and Jane needed someone who would hug them.


Aliki2006, over at World of One Thousand Different Things was nice enough to bestow upon me this:

Wasn't that nice of her?

I'm actually quite flattered, because I DO believe that Nice Matters. Sure, I can be snarky occasionally, and I have been known to rant, but I really do try to be a nice person. That doesn't mean I won't speak my mind or disagree, but I think you can do those things and still be nice. I think there has been a large lack of common NICE in our world, and we could really benefit from bringing it back. From the simple thing of letting a car go ahead of you in traffic to truly helping out a stranger in need. From trying to refrain from gossip, and choosing to not speak ill of someone (even when you easily could!). The other day as I went through a toll booth I smiled and said a bright "Good morning!" to the man in the booth. He beamed at me. Was I the only person who had been nice to him that day? (I hope not!) It costs us so little, usually, to be nice, and the benefits are so great. Our society has placed such value on sarcasm, on competitiveness, on being better and having more. I think it's a good idea to bring back the NICE.

There are a lot of NICE people out there in the blogosphere, but I would particularly like to pass this pretty little button on to:
bubandpie who was not only one of the first people to leave a comment on my blog (oh? yours, too? isn't she NICE?) but helped me out not only with technical things but also with coming up with themey titles for my blog
Beck who also was one of my first commenters, and whose whole blog is just nice. She speaks beautifully and elegantly and kindly about matters large and small
Chani who, even when she is feeling hurt, puts so much emphasis on peace and understanding, that the word nice seems like such a shortfall, but nonetheless appropriate (and Chani, feel no need to pass this on... I just wanted to honor your niceness with no linky pressure)
Ewe who is the only blogger I have actually met in the real world, and she was quite nice, indeed (both online and off)

And to all of you nice people who stop by my blog... you make my world nicer just by saying hey. So, thanks.

Have a nice day.

Friday, August 17, 2007


When I was a child, nearly every time we visited my grandparents they showed us a slideshow of their far off adventure: Alaska, England, Russia, a camping trip out west. My grandfather would pop some corn that he had grown in the field behind the barn, and my grandmother would offer us a "sody-pop" out of a dusty bottle brought up from the basement. We would settle in with these treats in the darkened room and watch the slides on the old screen set up in living room.
I have finally managed to sort through all of my pictures from my holiday, and I promise not to show you all 658 of them. But if you have a some time, and have not yet grown weary of my travel tales, grab some popcorn and a sody-pop. Here's my slideshow.
We started off with London, and I've already bored you with my family in front of Big Ben, and all my theatre ramblings. Being able to explore the city without a child in tow was really wonderful. We took several walking tours: London Walks had a great selection. The tours really help you learn a lot more about the area, and see things you never would have noticed before. I highly recommend walking tours anywhere you go.

Our Royal Westminster tour guide got us to a fabulous spot to see not only the approach of the old guard (above) but then ran us around to see the approach of the new guard for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. The actual "changing" part takes place behind a wall, and you can't see anything, so getting really close to the palace is not advantageous. The highlight of the tour was Westminster Abbey (I was not allowed to take pictures inside, but that's the family in front of it at the top of this post) The amount of royalty (including Saint Edward) and other famous dead buried in the church is astounding. It made me think of how we Americans get so creeped out by graveyards and such, and yet nearly every church in England is full of crypts, and you can't walk inside without walking over someone's remains. And it's not a lack of respect to stand over the grave. You could see the tourists nearly leaping off the places they realized were graves, until they realized just about every place you could walk was a grave.

Another highlight in London was the Tower of London. We enjoyed the tour given (at no extra charge) by a Yeoman Warder (commonly known as a "Beefeater" - they are not entirely sure where this nickname came from, perhaps from the rations of beef this special part of the Royal army received). We saw the crown jewels, which were, you know, sparkly and all. The history here is truly fascinating. My husband is a history geek (and a church geek, which we also saw lots of), so this trip was a dream for him. Usually on a vacation he likes to sit around with a good (history) book, but on this vacation he was Mr. Tour Guide himself (which worked perfectly for me, because I like to GO and DO on vacation). We had watched the (not so good) Showtime series "The Tudors," and so have been talking a lot about the various Kings and Queens who used the Tower grounds.

The White Tower was the Royal residence for many years, although had been long ago turned into an armory (which is what is mostly on display in there now). Several years ago I played Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare's Richard III, and this would have been where the historical people actually lived. We went into the "bloody tower" where the 2 young princes were likely killed on Richard's orders in his maneuvering for the throne (although apparently that is up for debate. Richard was likely not nearly as bad as Shakespeare paints him to be, but then again, Shakespeare was writing the play during the time of Elizabeth I, the granddaughter of Richard's overthrower. More on Richard later) I should have included this photo in my previous Theatre Geek post, as just walking through the castle and grounds was a real feast for my theatrial imagination.

I've already written about our afternoon in Cambridge and meeting Ewe. We then spent 5 days staying at a resort in Sherwood Forest with the entirety of my Dad's side of the family. It was a really great time, helped by my complete domination over my siblings and cousins at the poker table 3 nights straight (Texas Hold 'Em, and too bad we weren't playing for real money because I would have stopped wincing every time I did the math for the exchange rate in my head. The dollar is WEAK, my friends). We stayed in a villa with my uncle's neice and family - Brits. Their 7 year old daughter was fantastic with The May Queen, and we really enjoyed getting to know them and hanging out. The resort had a great pool and waterslide area, canoeing on the lake, my husband took some classes in falconry (which he LOVED! No pictures of that, though.) We enjoyed feeding the ducks, and one day MQ exclaimed "England is so fun! I hope we come back LOTS!" Feeding the ducks. No sense of history, that kid. ;)

We had really sold MQ on the whole Robin Hood concept pre-vacation, so couldn't be in Sherwood Forest without playing Robin Hood.We also went one day to the Robin Hood festival, which, other than a cute interactive play, was very disappointing. It was like a poorly organized, too spread out version of our Renassaince Festivals. We were disappointed, and had hoped for more, but my husband later realized that here in the states that's what all the people who really love that sort of thing do - the festivals. In England those people can get a job at any of the myriad of Castles and such all over the country, and spend their lives making bows and arrows, leading tours, singing songs, etc.We took an afternoon trip to Lincoln to see the Cathedral and Castle there. We managed to hook up with a tour of the Cathedral, which was very interesting (I tell you, take the tours!!) My favorite tidbit from that tour was learning about the stone masonry: how the masons would be put to work, being told things like "make flowers over these doorways" and you could see where the more skilled masons worked, and where they would try to show off, and such. Also, all the art in the cathedral was designed to make the people who saw it (but couldn't read) think about their faith, including the famous "Lincoln Imp" - a stone devil to remind us that evil is everywhere, even in the church, but that ultimately it will be overthrown (the imp is below an angel).

When we left Sherwood Forest we went to Coventry (on the way there MQ got car sick - damn roundabouts!). We walked around the old cathedral, destroyed by a bomb during WWII, and also the new one they have built. This statue, "Reconciliation," is found within the old cathedral. We found it powerful that they left the ruins and built a new cathedral right next to it. My husband wondered about whether we need to do more of that, as a reminder of what is lost, particularly in our area as we rebuild after Katrina. Would it be powerful to leave some things in ruin as a memorial and as a reminder not only of the things that were lost, but also of the serious consequences of a lack of human responsibility.

We stayed a few days with my aunt and uncle in a small English town, Market Bosworth. Nearby is Bosworth Battlefield, where Richard III was killed by Henry VII, the last major battle in the War of the Roses. This is MQ and her daddy walking through a wheat field to Richard's standard, flying where they think his army was camped (I promised you more on Richard, did I not?). When I first visited England at 10 years of age they were remembering the 500th anniversary of the battle, which was pretty cool. And my aunt happened to visit me when I was performing in Richard III, and brought all sorts of stuff to us from the battlefield.

Before leaving Market Bosworth my whole family (minus my cousin's wife, who was down with the stomach bug that I got whacked with upon our return) worshiped in the local church, parts of which date back to the 1200's. It was really great to have the whole family together, and to be in a place where Christians have gathered for 800 years. Pretty astonishing, and gives a whole new outlook on "the communion of saints."We then headed off to Wales, for the sole purpose of taking this picture. See, our last name is Welsh, and is derived from the name of this river. It is now called the Wye River, but long, long ago before the British invaded and renamed everything it was called something else, and that's our namesake. So I figured that if we were already flying half way around the world, we needed to have this picture taken, because what better thing to include in our yearly Christmas card? We had a beautiful day to explore some sights in the Wye River Valley, and I could fill posts upon posts with the pictures I took there, but will whittle it down a bit for you, dear reader, in case you are running out of popcorn. What is this? you may ask, scratching your head. Tintern Abbey - ransacked when Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Chuich (he needed a divorce, you know, and the Pope wouldn't give him one!) and had all the monastaries closed. What do you do here? Well, apparently you follow Henry's example and...Attack!!!! MQ groused and groused about coming here, and ended up loving her exploration of the ruins. She particularly liked walking along the ruined walls, and kept asking to stay when we wanted to leave!
Isn't it gorgeous? The sky was so blue, and it was so inspiring and refreshing to be under the great expanse of blue and exploring these ruins.Tintern Abbey, by the way, is where I took that fabulous picture at the end of the first day of kindergarten post.
Next stop was Chepstowe Castle, where this precious princess played her first ever practical joke on me. She said to me "Mommy, I have to go to the potty. I found it, I know where it is, come with me." I followed her into a small stone room where she showed me this:
Yes, that is an ancient potty. People would sit here, and their waste would fall into the river below (yes, the same river that I am named after. Lovely, eh?) I was proud of MQ, and laughed heartily.
The next day we went to Glastonbury Abbey, said to be the first place to have a church in all of England. In fact, the Somerset Tradition has it that Joseph of Arimethea was Mary's uncle, and took Jesus there as a young man, and they built a church. I'm not sure I buy it, but it's a nice idea. Glastonbury is the site where King Arthur was supposedly buried (his tomb was destroyed when the church was destroyed by, you guessed it, Henry VIII. The stones from this Abbey were "quarried" to make new buildings) This sign was in the display about the Abbey, describing how it was built. It made me laugh out loud, so I share it with you.
This tree is said to have grown from the original thorn tree that sprouted where Joseph placed his staff in the ground after returning to England with the Holy Grail. We also visited the Chalice Well, where Joseph is said to have poured out the Holy Grail, filled with the blood and water that poured out from Jesus, into the ground (how did he get it all the way from Jerusalem without it spilling without any Saran Wrap is what I would like to know). Hubby visited it over 21 years ago, when it was just a grate over a spring of water, and it has since been turned into quite the tourist attraction. The water is supposed to have healing qualities, and the Joseph story has taken a backseat to the mystical. Among all the healing pools (which MQ and I waded in) and the gardens the spring ran into a little river that flows down to the "toilet" sign (that would be the green oval on your right), and once again, we had to laugh.

And here we are at Stonehenge. We did not pay to get in (but lest you think we are cheap, later that same day we paid over $56 dollars for the privelege of entering Windsor Castle), so the picture is taken from the other side of the fence, along the road. MQ was quite unimpressed with the pile of rocks, but VERY impressed by the sheep in the neighboring field. She wanted desperately to feed them through the fence, but they were uninterested in her handful of grass.

The next day we flew home, and thus began the Sorting of the Pictures, so that I could bore you with this slideshow. And if you haven't dozed off or clicked to another blog already, thanks for watching.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

on naming cars

After my last post I got to wondering: what names have you given to your cars, if any?

I call my car now "The Mom Mobile," but this is not a proper name. I was never really into naming my cars (my friends did, hence the references to cars with names in previous post), but I did once, when I was about 23 or 24, name a car "Suckling Pig." I was in a play at the time, and driving another one of the actresses to and from rehearsals. There was a suckling pig (as in one you eat) referred to in the play, and we had this hysterical prop for the pig (that was way too large to be a suckling, we felt) and it made us laugh, so we started referring to the car as "Suckling Pig." About a year later my husband was driving the car (our ONLY car, I will add) when it caught on fire, and literally burned to a crisp on the side of the road(he got out safely). My friend had since moved to NYC, and I sent her an e-mail telling her we had had a pig roast!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The wind in my toes

As I was driving home this morning, after dropping The May Queen off at kindergarten, I saw two feet sticking out of a car window. They were crossed comfortably above the side mirror. The car was an old boxy car, covered with stickers and a bit of rust. Immediately I was filled with memories of being young and riding with my feet out the window. Of the the cool rush of air over my feet, up my legs, into my face and through my hair. Of riding in the car with my high school friends, laughing and singing, with no where in particular to go. Long summer days and cars with names, which we hopped into through the windows, just for fun. Our lives stretched before us like the open road, the possibilities rushing past like the wind.

I drove on home, in my minivan, with the air conditioning on. But in my mind, my feet were hanging out the window.

Monday, August 13, 2007

My Baby is in Kindergarten

we interrupt the regularly scheduled travelogue for this story....

The May Queen started Kindergarten today. Yes, yes, I know. It is hotter than hell and still the middle of summer. But not in Louisiana. Well, it is in Louisiana, too, but it is also back to school time.

I've written before about how we fought to get The May Queen into kindergarten this year, and how I struggled over the summer with this decision. Yesterday I watched her bare little body picking out clothes from her closet and marvelled, could this little body, this baby, be starting kindergarten? Later I looked at her feet in her sandals and saw her baby feet. Surely those feet could not stand on their own in kindergarten.

The May Queen was excited. We had her uniform set out for the next day. I decorated her school bag with her name, flowers, and a giraffe (her favorite animal!). I made a cover for her nap mat out of an old sheet (I'm so domestic! And thrifty! I'll be up for mother of the year!). She picked her colorful blanket to take with her for rest time. She even asked if she could take Teddy along, as she couldn't sleep without him (I doubted her ability to nap at all, as she gave napping up a full 2 years ago, but kindergarten is a full day -7 hours!- and rest time is mandated by the state) . I told her we would put him in her bag, and ask her teacher in the morning.

This morning I had set my alarm so that I could get up in time. School begins at 8am and I am not a morning person. I got up, grumpy, as I had not slept well since MQ crawled into bed with us sometime around 1, and appx. every hour on the hour after that I woke up with a knee in my back. I could have moved her, I suppose, but in the middle of the night I don't always think of these things.

As I was taking my shower she woke up and went downstairs with her daddy, who got her a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Then she appeared in the bathroom, crying. It hurt when she swallowed. Could my baby be sick? On her first day of kindergarten! No! I joined them downstairs, and we tried softer foods. Pancakes. More tears. A bowl of applesauce. More tears. I looked down her throat with the trusty hippo flashlight. It looked like she had scraped her throat with that first bite of cereal. Otherwise, she had no other symptoms. We decided she was not sick. As we started getting dressed, she began coughing hard, painful coughs. Forced coughs. And she cried. I held her in my lap and asked what was wrong. She just cried and coughed. My husband looked on, helpless. This is not usual behavior for our May Queen, who was just yesterday leaping about talking all about her new school and her new teacher. I told her I would wait until she calmed down. When she did, I asked her if she was nervous, and she said she was. We talked a little bit about what it would be like, what might happen. She started to get dressed. She started to smile. Then she worried she would cry at snack time. I told her that mouths heal very fast, but that if she thought it would hurt, to just say she wasn't hungry. She nodded, seriously. She could do that. By the time we finished getting her dressed she was happy, ready to go.

OK, not quite THIS happy. This picture was taken AFTER school. She refused to have her picture taken before school. It was a battle I chose not to fight

When we arrived at school the children were lining up with their classes in the gym. It is a small, private school, and today in the kindergarten class only the girls were there. MQ went easily and sat by her teacher while I went and stood at the edge and watched. She got a name tag. She stood and said the morning prayers, the pledge. Then she followed the teacher back to the room. We parents were invited to help them get their things into their cubby, and say goodbye. MQ took the bag with her mat and blanket from my hand. "I'll carry this" she said. She put her things away. She walked right up to her teacher and asked if she could bring out Teddy at nap time ("of course"). And she walked into her classroom. I had to call her back out to give me a hug.

I was so worried this morning. I had never seen my baby behave that way, so scared, so unable to say what was wrong. I worried I was pushing her. I debated crawling back into bed with her, calling in sick. Spending the day coloring and playing and tickling. But that big girl at school? The one who ran into the room without a backwards glance at me? That's the girl that I know will thrive in kindergarten. I wasn't quite prepared for how quickly it would happen this morning... that one moment she would be this baby by my side, and the next she would be walking eagerly away from me. I wanted to take some more time to linger. To see her new classroom. To make the transition. But she needed to do that without me.

Go ahead and jump right in, baby. The sky is the limit.

Don't mind me. I'll just cry quietly on the way home.

(As you can imagine, she had a wonderful first day of kindergarten. She even slept during nap time. When she came home, we invited the neighbors over to enjoy that delicious pencil cake.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

This Theatre Geek in England

(i am having terrible troubles trying to get this to lay out correctly, so please forgive the little bits of text to the right of the pictures and such. When I look at it as I compose it it looks lovely)
A Theatre Geek cannot go to the land of William Shakespeare and not pay homage. It is impossible. A Theatre Geek cannot go to a big city and not see lots of theatre. It is not done. And so... the adventures of this Theatre Geek in England:

We arrived on a Wed, and as I had slept about, oh, 4 minutes on our red eye flight I chose to hit the sack at 7:30pm that night. No theatre for me. Nothing worse than a snoring audience member. But every other night that I was in London...

On Thursday we decided to hit the half price theatre booths in Leicester Square to try our luck. Our first couple of choices were unavailable, but my cousin and I settled on The Drowsy Chaperone at the Novella Theatre, starring Elaine Page. I know, I know - an American Import!! What were we thinking? Perhaps that local show Lord of the Rings had gotten terrible reviews. ;) It was a fun and fluffy sort of show, very well done, and we enjoyed it immensely. That same evening my brother and SIL went to see Avenue Q (another American import!) I have seen Ave Q in Vegas, and highly recommend it to anyone. In fact, we mommies are really its best audience, as it is a very adult send up of Sesame Street. Go buy the soundtrack and perhaps, like me, you will have to pull over your car to stop laughing. But don't listen to it in front of your children, unless you want them to start in with a rendition of "The Internet is for Porn" in front of your in-laws.

But I digress. Back to this Theatre Geek in England...

Friday night was the thing I had been waiting for. The only thing I said I HAD to do in England. The thing my cousin (a writer and fellow theatre geek) and I had been scheming for over a year. The thing I had called from the states to book tickets for... Love's Labour's Lost at The Globe . (cue theme music now!) The Globe was built 10 years ago to replicate as closely as possible the theatre where Shakespeare's plays were first produced. A lot of the theatre is guesswork - culled from a few sketches and descriptions, and taking cues from the way things were written in the plays. They did excavate the foundation of the Globe a while back, so they have a pretty good idea of the size and shape of it.

My heart was pounding I was so excited! So of course I had to have my picture taken in front of it! As a theatre student I read all about the Globe, what it might look like, how it effected staging, how the audience ate nuts and oranges throughout the performance. ;) Getting to go to the Globe was like walking into a textbook. Only 500 times better. I imagined myself on that stage... speaking Shakespeare's words. Heaven.

The show was, of course, fantastic. Fabulous acting all around, and lots of bawdy humor. I'm glad that we reserved seats (at the back of the first level, just off center. Fantastic!) We could have gone that day and bought "Groundling" tickets for 5 pounds and stood in the front. However, after walking all day I was glad we had seats, even if they were only on wooden benches. When it began to rain I was even more relieved. The seats are covered, and most of the stage, but the area in front of it was not. At intermission the stage hands came out and squeegeed the catwalk-like areas in front of the stage that had gotten wet.

This is the ceiling above the stage. I didn't get to take it until the show was over, and so it was already dark out, and the lighting bad. It is believed that the ceiling of the original Globe was painted to show the heavens. Here, the heavens are portrayed by the fleshed out constellations. I have seen it in models and books to show the moon and stars.

You can take a tour of the theatre, and I wish that I could have done that, but alas, they only offered it in the mornings, and I didn't have the time.

On Saturday night I went to see Harold Pinter's The Hothouse at the National Theatre (the theatre originally helmed by Olivier). I really wanted to see a modern British playwright done by the Brits themselves. Oddly enough, no one else wanted to join me. ;) Pinter can be a bit difficult, and this is not one of his better known plays (like Betrayal or The Birthday Party). I remember before heading off to college trying to bone up on more modern playwrights and getting a book of 4 Pinter plays from my local library. I don't think that at the time I would have imagined myself excited to see one of his plays. But excited I was, and very much enjoyed this excellent, funny, and very creepy production. I don't get to see much theatre done in big spaces with top notch actors these days, and it was really refreshing. My husband laughed at me when I worried I wouldn't be able to get tickets that day, but this large theatre had quite an audience. I love live theatre, and it was exciting just to be in that space with those people, in a building where several plays were happening at once. The play made me think, as all Pinter plays tend to do, abut power and relationships and the fight for control. Thinky theatre is good theatre (just as the fluff of The Drowsy Chaperone can be just what one needs, as well).

Nearly a week later found me with my family in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace. They have fancied it up a bit since I was there 21 years ago, adding on a little museum (jacking the entrance price, of course), even adding decoration and furnishing to the home. The museum was mildly interesting, and I learned a few things about good ol' Willy's childhood that I hadn't known before. This is a picture of his birthplace (it has been added onto over the years, the original house is probably the middle part as you look at it. That tiny figure in the purple is my daughter. She was very unimpressed to be at Shakespeare's house). I did spend some money at the gift shop (of course!) and discovered that this must be where my aunt bought The May Queen the hysterical finger puppets for A Midsummer Night's Dream. The Royal Shakespeare Company was in town performing, but alas, I could not stay for a show. 21 years ago I saw Midsummer here. It may well have been the first Shakespeare play I ever saw. And thus it began... ;)

For you Shakespeare Geeks - here is a sign over a restaurant on the same street as Shakespeare's Birthplace. There was also an As You Like It Cafe.

I also enjoyed The Creaky Cauldron, which of course made me think of The Leaky Cauldron .

Our very last night in town we went to see Windsor Castle, and walked by The Royal Theatre. I happened to notice that G.B. Shaw's Pygmalion (I love this play! I'm dying to play Eliza someday) was opening THAT NIGHT. Directed by SIR PETER HALL. I was salivating. I figured there couldn't possibly be any seats left, and that I could stop in and ask, they would tell me no, and I would say "alas" and be on my way. See, I knew there was no way I could see it. We still had to check into our hotel and return our rental car. So I stopped in. Not only were there still seats, but they were cheap. I tried and tried to find a way to do it (I could take a cab!) but there was just no way. Alas, indeed.

I had hoped this post to be a little more inspired, but it reads more like the excited ramblings of a geek. Which I suppose is just about right, in the end.