Once Again, A Memoriam

The following post is a reblog of my initial response to the shootings in Aurora earlier this year. Once again, my heart is aching with the same sentiments. Oh, America, what has happened?

Retro Wishes, Childhood Dreams

“Be home before the streetlights come on,” was the summertime rule in my house. Growing up in the small town of Plymouth, Michigan, during the 80’s was a real-life Sandlot experience. Between the large park around the block, the gas station with the Slurpee machine down the street, and the “downtown” movie theater only a quick bike ride away, my friends and I spent the bulk of our summers outside.  We rode bikes, climbed trees, flew kites, and built lemonade stands. Our parents knew that if we weren’t swimming in Jamie’s pool, we were probably in our tree forts in the park. We didn’t have cell phones or Ipods; we were blissfully entertained by the song of chirping crickets, the light show of dancing fireflies, and the tinkling sounds of the ice cream truck.

A school shooting wasn’t even a figment of my imagination. 

Today, not only do I mourn the loss of innocent life in Sandy Hook, but also the loss of the childhood innocence of a generation. Our children are growing up with the morbid possibility of school shootings, theater massacres, and terrorist bombings. The TV violence of the 80’s has become real-life breaking news. My heart is heavy.

Fighting the Darkness

It’s time for us to stand up for the future of our children, to champion the cause of preserving the innocence of childhood. Our country is not lost; there are still families who eat around a table, children who play in parks, and parents who diligently teach ethics and morals. We have not slipped into the reckless abandon of a lawless society; rather, we have parents, teachers, leaders, and civil servants who protect order and preserve peace.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

It is the duty of us all to promote courage within our society. We all have influence. I influence people you will never meet and vice versa. It is our civil responsibility to fight the darkness that is slowly descending upon our nation. Our children depend on us to preserve their childhood. Their childhood memories are weighed in the balance of our willingness to stand up for what is right. The cause of morality needs champions.

There isn’t enough darkness in all the world to snuff out the light of one little candle. ~Robert Alden

Morality Rises

This weekend, rather than going to see a movie or a ballgame, why not spend time with your family. Hug them a little tighter, tell them a story of courage in the face of fear, show them a memory of your own retro childhood. Be a child’s hero this weekend. Fly a kite, build a fort, read a book. Let’s make morality rise in our country once again.

The families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims are in my prayers.

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True Friendships in a Barbie World: Revisited

The inevitable end of summer has arrived! Walmarts across the country are being overrun with back-to-school shoppers searching for number 2 pencils, composition books, and the perfect colored Postit note. In the spirit of new beginnings, this week’s blog is a delightful reblog of last year’s article dedicated to the formations of new friendships in the first few moments of the school year. Whether we’re passed a pen in class, selected for a fall sports team, or handed a cup of coffee in the break room, making friends is one of the most challenging and somewhat fearful events of life. Here’s to friendship!

If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends? ~Author Unknown

How do we choose our friends?

I think this question is answered according to where you are in life. Granted, I’m a thirty-something who looks back at her charmed childhood with rosy glasses, but I’m going to attempt to define friendship and/or popularity from my perspective.

  • Elementary: It was simple in elementary school. You wanted to be friends with the girl who had the most Lisa Frank items. Tell me you don’t remember those awesome trapper keepers and stickers! And folders. And pencils. And….
  • Junior High: Can we really take junior high popularity seriously? Hormones, pimples, bad hairstyles—let’s just skip to high school!
  • High School: Once you graduate from the upper elementary building and hit the lockered halls of high school, your world changes. Your Lisa Frank collection starts to gather dust, boys are a whole lot cuter, and every night you pray that your Clearasil works. Whatever circle you were in—athletics, drama, academics, pretty people—some were more popular than others.
  • College: In college, you fall into groups that possess similar majors, interests, or personalities. Honestly, I think that as we begin to form our own identity, we realize that our friends are an intregal part of who we are and who we will become.
  • Career: Everything changes once you hit the real world. Or, does it? Considering today’s world of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, online dating, and forum presence, I wonder if we have really outgrown high school mentality of popularity and friendship.

Actually, whatever stage of life we are in, do we really ever grow out of the “Lisa Frank” mentality? Do we surround ourselves with the people that make a difference in our lives, or do continually compare our proverbial trapper keepers? It’s the whole “keeping up with the Jones’” point of view. I don’t want to choose my friends based upon what they can do for me; rather, I want to surround myself with people that inspire me to go deeper into maturity. In contrast to “buying Barbie’s friends,” I’d rather describe my friendships as:

But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely.  Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.  ~Dinah Craik

Whatever stage of life you are in, I hope that you can honestly say that you have this type of friend. True friendship in an increasingly Barbie world is rare; here’s hoping you have found your place in a circle of friends, and that you make a difference in your world together.

Once Again to 中国

My husband and I have a unique opportunity to co-lead a trip to China this Spring. We will be chaperoning a team of 20-something college students on a quest to bring the secrets of the English language to China. Our trip will span almost an entire month and will be focused on promoting good will and volunteering efforts in several cities of mainland China. Our goal is to bring a bit of western culture to this land rich in cultural identity and social prosperity.

China has always been near and dear to my heart. Having spent two years as an English teacher at North Eastern University in Dalian, China, I learned a wee bit of the language–enough to get by in the bartering system at the local food markets! I am delighted to have this chance to return to the land that created so many wonderful memories. It will be a pleasure to share the secrets of China with my husband.

Be the change we wish to see in the world.”

An Audience of One: Part 2

Yes, I’ve already written about acting for an Audience of One, but since I’m currently involved in a community theatre production of Miracle on 34th Street, I thought it would be timely to revisit this thought. Once again, I find myself in the throngs of busyness, trying to keep the house clean, making yummy meals for the husband, and not letting my productivity at work slip, while endlessly rehearsing lines in my head, becoming “Doris Walker”, and keeping my head above water during this holiday season. It’s been a fun six weeks… hence the lack of postings on this blog.

I previously stated in An Audience of One that my favorite part of the show is the monologue. As Doris Walker, I am playing a part that I’ve never truly experienced, that of a stuck-in-her-own-shell, realistic, somewhat hardened divorcee with a ten-year old daughter. It has been a task trying to identify with the feelings that Doris displays throughout the show, but it has been a delightful challenge. My husband saw the show last weekend and remarked, “It was so odd; I know you, but I didn’t know you!” As an actress, that was the sweetest thing he could have said.

As I said before, acting demands excellence; to be a successful actor, you have to effectively communicate thoughts and emotions to an audience. The audience must not only watch events as they take place, they must understand why characters respond to events as they do and feel emotional connections to the actors. In my opinion, it is easier to establish an emotional connection with the audience around Christmas time. Everyone is looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of buying, wrapping, sending, giving, and eating during this most wonderful time of the year. They’re trying to fill the need, supply the desire, find the perfect present, and get the gifts to Grandma before the 25th. It is such a privilege to offer brief moments of magic through the looking glass of the stage.

Looking Beyond the Stage

Once again, I wish to look beyond the stage, beyond the audience, and through the twinkling spotlights. I wish to turn this blog into a lens of introspection with a question: In all our busyness, do we truly take the time to stop and thank God? We just baked our pumpkin pies, carved our delightfully seasoned turkeys, and ate our fill of canned cranberry sauce. We just paused as a nation to offer thanksgiving to God for the initiative of lonely pilgrims desperate for religious freedom and a new beginning. Our hearts were just filled with the love, laughter, and family togetherness of the holiday. We just experienced Thanksgiving.

And yet, what has December become? In my life, this year is full of rehearsals, performances, and photoshoots. For you, it may be shopping, church cantatas, gift wrapping, travelling, or other methods of creating “holiday cheer.” Can we really say that we have continued in a spirit of Thanksgiving through these few weeks since November 24th? Are we living our holiday season for the Audience of One? Can we truly say in all our busyness, we continuously thank the One who has provided the ability and means to even celebrate Christmas?

Looking Beyond the Holiday

More than just pausing to be thankful, do we honestly remember what Christmas truly means? It is the remembrance of the divine moment when Hope was born. Christmas is more than pretty presents, sparkling tinsel, and caroling in the snow. It is the epitome of living for an Audience of One. Through Christmas, we begin to understand the One for which we live. By remembering Christ in Christmas, we acknowledge our inability to do anything apart from our Saviour, our fallibility, our inherent selfishness, and our breathtaking, undeserved future.

As much as I pour my energy, time, and thought into the character of Doris Walker for Miracle on 34th Street, I should radiate Christianity. I should go about my busy holiday planning and shopping as a Christian. I should be a vibrant light, a true testimony, a willing servant to others. I shouldn’t focus on the “getting” of the season, but on the giving. There shouldn’t be a difference between what I say in the store (to get that last “perfect” gift on Christmas Eve!) and the way I live what I believe. I should exhibit the true Christmas spirit through living my life for my Audience of One.

Just as I cannot see the audience when I stand in the spotlight, I should live my life this Christmas with only my Audience of One in view. 

The Power in a Sunrise

As many of you know, my beloved Dad lost his battle with cancer in November of 2003. Being the ultimate Daddy’s girl that I am, I still wrestle with the empty space he should inhabit and dreadfully miss his presence in my life. He truly was my hero; he traveled the world slaying corporate dragons, kissed my Mom in front of my brother and I, cooked amazing Sunday dinners, and made sure that no monsters were living under the beds. I wish my husband could have met him, that he could have seen my brother graduate from college and marry the girl of his dreams, and that he could be with my Mom in her empty nest adventures.

During one particularly tear-stained night not too long ago, I set my pen to paper and wrote a quote that I like to think is encouraging. I was inspired when I considered that the long nights end in the sunrise. There is a cleansing that arises with the golden rays of dawn. I thought I would share this quote with you today.

May we never look at the burning horizon and forget that it travels on into the breaking dawn; that just beyond its reach is a land waking up to conquer a new day. In the midst of the night season, may we always remember that the long night will not tarry beyond its allotted moments, but will quickly surrender itself to the golden rays of dawn. ~© Jessica Burchfield

Over the last 8 years, I have found that yes, it is perfectly ok to break down. In fact, when talking to people that are going through similar situations, I encourage it. The bottling up and suppressing of emotions is never a healthy practice. We all need the healing that comes with the tears. Sometimes surrendering to the loss is just what you need to move on, yet again.

But then comes the morning.

I love beginnings. What are mornings, but new beginnings? During one of my elementary/junior high years, a teacher made us choose a poem to present before our speech class. I don’t remember what poem I chose, but I do remember that a classmate chose The Land of Beginning Again by Louise Fletcher. This was my favorite stanza:

For what had been hardest we’d know had been best
And what had seemed loss would be gain
For there isn’t a sting that will not take a wing
When we’ve faced it and laughed it away,
And I think that the laughter is most what we’re after
In the Land of Beginning Again.

So, here’s to all of you that are struggling in the season of shadows. Here’s to you that have long been dwelling in the “night.” Here’s to us that have awoken from the darkness, only to find the golden beams of a bright new day–a day that holds the promise of beginning again. Here’s to the sunrise.

We can only appreciate the miracle of the sunrise if we have waited long in the darkness. ~Author Unknown

The Unwritten Slate of Mornings

Try as I might, I am just not a morning person. No amount of coffee can ever change this fact. The first flick of a lightswitch is an act of treason upon my darkened eyes; my upstairs neighbor’s Godzilla-toddler is my mortal enemy; and a purring, I-haven’t-seen-you-in-hours cat brings no joy to my still-sleeping joints. My snooze button is a fair weather friend that delivers precious few moments of additional sleep while continuously heightening a sense of panic each time I succumb to its sweet seduction.

Before I go any further in this blogging adventure, let me confess my addiction: I am purely, competely, shamefully addicted to coffee. Not a normal “sure, I’ll have another cup” addiction, I own two Keurig brewers (one for home and one for work, obviously), three french presses, an Aeropress (best Valentine’s gift ever!), several over-the-mug brewers I bought in China, a percolator, and a husband that makes iced coffee by the gallon jug. I’ve even found ways to use my crock pot to create delightful caffeinated concoctions of my obsession. I refuse to drink Folgers; call me a coffee-snob, it’s ok. That civet coffee? I’ve tried it and actually liked it.

Back to my Monday morning blog. Despite several cups of coffee this morning, I was unprepared for a quote I found online. Check it out:

The moment when you first wake up in the morning is the most wonderful of the twenty-four hours.  No matter how weary or dreary you may feel, you possess the certainty that, during the day that lies before you, absolutely anything may happen.  And the fact that it practically always doesn’t, matters not a jot. The possibility is always there.  ~Monica Baldwin

Why can’t I look at mornings like that? Yes, it’s an optimistic, bubbilicious view of reality, but isn’t it a great concept? Mornings are an unwritten slate. They are the proverbial empty page waiting for the pen of a writer. All of my days are unwritten, yes, but why have I never stopped to consider the building blocks of the unwritten life?

I may never become one of those lucky (?) people who are able to sing along with the radio on their morning commute, but I can look at my mornings as possibilities of greatness. When I begin to view them as such, no matter what the reflection of each day reveals, they will be full of captured moments, gratified potential, and realized possibilities.

Time for another cup of coffee.