Musical Theater and Veronica

Veronica went to her first real performance. Understand, she’s barely sat through Dumbo in one sitting. Her whole life it’s been about being able to move around. She doesn’t focus for long periods of time.

It’s not her thing.

But her friend Laura, a BIG GIRL who just started kindergarten, was in a play. Oliver!

We knew this very directly, because after church Laura and Veronica played on the stage. Veronica did improvisational storytelling, singing and dancing. Laura practiced.

For her performance, I was nervous. I wanted Veronica to go, but it was right in the middle of naptime.

One of the benefits of Veronica’s only-child existence is her father’s extraordinary ability to plan and make sure that her life is never taxing. What ever we’ve planned to do, it’s not going to be too much for her.

So a two-hour performance during naptime would normally be right out unapproved. But this was a once in a lifetime thing! Her first show, with her friend–basically a peer–in it.

I told Veronica we would be watching Laura sing and dance on stage. She said “I want to go on stage with her.” Well, not this time because she’s been practicing for a long time and it’s her turn to do it alone.

“Then it will be my turn!”

The day of the show, I told her a little more. I told her we would be going to a beautiful theater, like Angelina Ballerina. THE BOOK, not the show.

So, I dressed and she dressed. We went into Bridges auditorium.

She whispered, “Wow.”

Boy, it is a beautiful theater. She was impressed with the red velvet seats and the soaring ceiling with greek gods painted in silver outlined. We talked and pointed and then the lights when down. The leader in the orchestra pit said:


Veronica gasped. This was the real deal. She had heard this, she had called it out herself at the beginning of her pretend performances, and here it was ACTUALLY HAPPENING. Her face was electrified, her mouth open.

The performance began. It started slowly, but it began with a song. Laura was in that part and she looked so different as an orphan it was hard to tell it was her. Then the story went on.

“I don’t like this part Mommy. THey are not singing.”

‘They will sing again soon, don’t worry”

Oliver had a song “Where is love?” He brought out a single candle onto the stage and sat down lonely next to it, singing about his loneliness.

Veronica buried her head in my lap.

“What’s wrong?”

Through tears she said, “it’s so sad.”

My mouth was open now. This simple tableau moved her that much?”

She was ready for the intermission when it came, and she wasnt’ sure what has happening. She wanted to go play with another friend that was there. I had to tempt her back by saying “What do you think will happen to Oliver?”

We went back. Bill Sykes sang his scary song, and she stood up and made clawing monster motions. She was the monster. And then Nancy got shot.

“Oh NO! She is killed! That’s not okay. That’s not okay to kill.”

This was darker than anything she’d seen before. When it was over, they came out and took their bows

“After my little nap, it’s my turn.”

Back to explaining about how it takes practice, but that if she wanted to do it we would make sure that she had her turn. We waited in the foyer for her friend, but she didn’t come out. We went back in to find her, and her mommy had gotten involved in a conversation with someone near her seat.

The beautiful empty theater was all around us, and her friend walked up to us, “It’s over Veronica.”

Veronica ducked into my side to hide her face again. Oh no, what’s wrong. “I want my turn mommy.”

Next sunday Laura pulled Veronica around by the nose, saying she would teach Veronica musical theater.

Veronica is not so tractable. I have always thought her personality was more suited to directing things than taking direction. But Laura had the goods. No matter how incomprehensible her directions, Veronica did everything she was told with no complaining.

Laura knew. And Veronica wanted to know. It didn’t matter if it was strange and incomprehensible, she was going to learn.

That afternoon I took Veronica with me to a housewarming party. Predictably, she went shy. She didn’t know anyone there. I didn’t know so many of the people either, but Veronica kept me busy tending her in the bedroom as she played kitty.


My friend, no HER friend, Jess appeared. Veronica makes strong attachements to certain people. She ran downstairs as soon as she heard Jessica had arrived, gave her a huge hug and decided downstairs was ok after all.

She saw the downstairs den had promise.  She spread two blankets on the floor, scattered all the pillows around them and said ‘This is my stage.”

She put her hand to the side of her mouth and called out “People!”

“Veronica, people get to decide for themselves if they want to come. They might be playing with their other friends. Go ahead and do your performance.”

So she began. It was a musical story, involving running and monsters and scary and running and getting caught and almost getting caught. I admit, I didn’t appreciate it until she got to the part about running to the left and running to the right. She swung her arms in the correct direction.

Her audience had started to come in, and they were listening, but they were also visiting with each other as they sat on the furniture.

She received numerous rounds of applause, and she was going to keep their attention.

This would not do! It was HER show. She continued her story-song, but ran sweeping across the row of people. She spilled Jessica’s wine, and then pushed against the stomach of another woman there.

“Veronica! Be careful! Gentle with the audience!”

It’s not just that she loved the musical Oliver. It’s that she began immediately to practice this new art form.

They are having a performance of Wizard of OZ. I hope that she can learn the lyrics. Munchkins have some complicated songs

An American Thanksgiving in Mirnyy Yakutia


“They’re here!”

The guests had arrived. Just like every thanksgiving since the beginning, there was a flurry of last-minute preparation and a jump to answer the door. But this thanksgiving was an American thanksgiving abroad.

My first. So far my only.

19 years old, with my two parents and my two brothers, we were living in the town of Mirnyy, in Yakutia. Never heard of it? It was the diamond capital of the Soviet Union. It’s still a diamond-mining town, but the Soviet Union is long gone. In 1992, the year I’m talking about, the Soviet Union was newly gone. We had come to teach in a Bible-based school, and had only planned to stay January through June.

Surprise. It was November and we remained. We must have a thanksgiving feast! Regardless of the lack of food supplies–everything was defeetceet–we must have Thanksgiving dinner. And we must invite guests.

Mark opened the door. Nicholai, Tamara and their friend Oksana were here. Mom scurried past with the samovar. We took their coats, fur hats, mittens and all, placing them across the bed of the one bedroom.

Nicholai was the founding teacher of our new school. His constant support and graciousness made our transition here not only easy, but possible. His wife Tamara hosted us so many times at their flat, feeding us tea and borsht and every delicious thing the town could offer. She was delighted to accept our invitation to Thanksgiving dinner. When we explained that Thanksgiving was about guests, she said, “I shall bring my friend Oksana. She will enjoy this. You will love her!”

Every week of our stay so far someone invited us to their home for dinner. We’d feasted and grown fat in this town. This was the first time we’d invited guests for dinner at our home.

I was scared. How would we do this? Mom started to plan. As the only daughter and the experienced food shopper I paid close attention. What could we assemble into a feast? I said I had seen whole chickens at least twice at one shop, and that could stand in for a turkey. For Cranberry sauce we could use local berries. Berries were easy because the forest around had plenty and people shared what they picked. Bread for stuffing was also easy; Russians protect their bread supply.

So then, finding enough space around the table was another problem. We did not have the beautiful dishes that Tamara had; we scrambled to be sure we had an ordinary plate for everyone.

“Come into our dining room!” We led our guests into the living room spread with the dining table. The couch served as seating on one side, and the other side was assembled stools and chairs.  Samovar on one end, with soup as first course ready to be served. It wasn’t done to skip the soup.

“You have done an excellent job,” Nicholai said as he entered.

“This is very wonderful!” Tamara said. “You have laid the table so nicely. Look Oksana, isn’t this nice? I can see the care you have taken with every small thing.”

Everyone seated now, our plates empty, Dad took this pause to make a formal occasion:

“When the Pilgrims first came to America, in pursuit of religious freedom, they has a very hard time of it. They didn’t know how to get food in this new land. The Indian people who lived there helped them. The Pilgrims would not have survived without the help of the Indians.

“So, during harvest season the Pilgrims planned a great feast for their Indian friends. That first thanksgiving, the Indians and the Pilgrims feasted and shared all they had. The Pilgrims were very grateful.

“Since that time, America has celebrated thanksgiving day. Well. Lincoln made it a holiday during the Civil War, but it was celebrated before then.

“It is a tradition for everyone around the table to take a moment and say something we are grateful for.”

He concluded and gestured to our guests. Engrossed in the story, and shook themselves free to try to understand what was expected of them.

Mom spoke up, from her place next to Dad. “I can begin. I am so thankful for welcome we have received from everyone here in Mirnyy and all the friends we have made.”

We took turns, my American family coming up with our thanks.  After a few examples, Nicolai and Tamara were able to easily respond. “We are thankful to have a chance to take part of this American tradition and eat this lovely dinner with our friends.”

Oksana said, “I am thankful to meet new friends and learn about American stories.”

Dad then led us in prayer. Now we could eat!

Mom dished up the borsht. We ate it Russian style, soupspoon in one hand and bread in the other.

After the soup, we should eat the bird. But there was a problem. I hadn’t been able to find a chicken after all. That week we had wondered what to do, how could we have Thanksgiving without a bird? Would we make the shape of the turkey out of of stuffing? Was that even possible?

The answer came from some Yakut friends of Chris. These men embraced my youngest brother, and had taken him hunting the month before.

“They had these military grade ammunition. If they shot one in the sky, it flashed light and you could see everywhere. The sky was all lit up. They were crazy! I didn’t catch anything though.” They enjoyed showing off their guns and hunting skills to the American.

Then that Tuesday night, late. we heard a knock on the door. A big Yakut man came in, and he was carrying two very big dead birds.

Glooxa!” he said. That was the name of this kind of bird. The word literally meant stupid or deaf. He had a successful hunting trip and wanted to share with us. These were very dead and very heavy.  The feathers shone with iridescence.

A Thanksgiving miracle: a real dead Russian turkey miraculously dropped off in time for our feast!

We put them in the bathtub to prepare later. Mom declared she would pluck them and get them ready the next day. As it happened, plucking is a lost art. She skinned them.

So after the soup, she brought out a lovely skinned and roasted bird body to share. We told them the story of how we received them and our guests were delighted to eat the tender dark meat.

Dad carved the turkey while my mother explained that the carving of the turkey had a special significance, usually done by the male. She even explained that some people used electric knives. Oooh! Aaah!

We feasted, we laughed, we remembered. Then it was time for pie.


The pie was my contribution. Weeks earlier someone brought over a baby food jar of pureed carrots. It was a novel gift, from one of the teenagers who came over to practice their English. Baby food? She said it tasted good, and it was unusual.
Unusual tastes were so rare for the locals. Of course, all tastes were novel to our foreign tongues. We put it in our cupboard, not knowing what else to do with it. But I thought it could be made into a custard pie. Not pumpkin, but orange at least.

I’d made a crust and a custard filling. The pie came out bright orange. I hadn’t tasted it but I handed it round with the tea, nervous at what might be in store.

Tasting a sweet butterscotch flavor, the diners declared it a success.

We achieved the stretch-bellied satisfaction of Thanksgiving dinner we were hoping for. And here was another potential problem. After dinner, the Russians traditionally began to toast. Dad had decided we would continue our teetotal lifestyle in Russia, so no way were we going to serve alcohol after dinner.

But what, then?

“Let’s play moose moose!”

This was a silly youth group game. Each person would choose a motion and a sound to indicate an animal. The starting animal was a moose; the person playing the moose would put their hand-antlers up to their head and say “moose moose.” The other people in the circle chose their animals with a sound and a sign. The moose began the game, saying his word, “moose moose” and then another animal: “bow wow.”  The dog would have to answer quickly with his sign and the sign of another player or he was out.

Once the dog was out, the circle would all move up, swapping animals to match the location in the circle. It was easy to forget that you were now the dog.

This game transcended language barriers. We played again and again, and laughed way more than I ever had during drinking times. Tamara’s friend Oksana was hilarious and fun, and everyone departed feeling very friendly and satisfied.

Happy Thanksgiving!

13 habits of resiliant people

1. They take ownership of the state of their lives

2. They cultivate and protect their power

3. They embrace change

4. They focus on what is under their control

5. They are okay with making some people upset with their choices

6. They Take Calculated Risks

7. They look to the future

8. They learn from their mistakes

9. They appreciate other people’s success.

10. They keep trying after a failure

11. They can be happy alone

12. They know it is up to them to affect the change they want


13. They know results take time



Where am I? What am I doing?

Has anyone else noticed that prices don’t make sense anymore? I mean, I remember taking a quarter to the store and being able to buy candy. And a dime would make a phone call.

YES, I am going to get all old-timer right now. It’s the holidays and I can get crankily nostalgic if I want to.

A dime for a phone call. That is nearly nonsensical now. Even rest stops on the highway don’t have payphones anymore. I took a photo of the empty phone booths on the 15 highway on the way to San Diego once.

I took the photo with my phone.

What is going on? And look at this! Macaroni and cheese costs a buck fifty. How is that possible? When did a dozen eggs cost 3 dollars?

I go to the store and feel like I’m in a foreign country with an unfavorable exchange rate. I remember having this same feeling in Denmark. Holy Crap! That’s what a loaf of bread costs? Well, I have to pay it because it’s even worse to get food any other way. Cheese sandwiches in the hotel are the cheapest it’s going to get.

However, I am in the twilight of my 40th year. It occurs to me that adulthood is a foreign country I haven’t gotten the hang of.

All these expectations. “You didn’t know? You haven’t tried? You haven’t read? You haven’t been?”

Have I? Would I know if I had? What does that look like? If I was there, would I have recognized it? I think I was supposed to be further along by now. I think I didn’t do the homework.

On the whole, I like being an adult. I look at my 4 year old daughter, and I see her chafing against all the ways she doesn’t have control over her life.

I have more control. I think. And then I look at all the ways my peers don’t have control over their lives. Do they have more control than I see?

What is the story we are telling ourselves? Am I here because I am afraid of all the other imagined alternatives? Am I here because this is my choice, my preferred life?

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says that it is far happier to be happy and know you are happy.

So too, with choices. It is far better to know I make the choice to get up at 5 AM every morning because I choose to go to work and have this kind of life. I choose it.

My daughter does not choose her bath every night, resists that bath EVERY NIGHT. It is an unnecessary struggle, and a very predictable one. That alarm clock can be a predictable struggle too.

Awareness, also called mindfulness, makes these unfamiliar and seemingly unmovable life constraints my own. There are a lot of choices that I would choose and re-choose every day. Personal grooming, yes.

Then there are those others, which, once I become aware that they are choices, I might do different.

And that makes all the difference.


It is squirrel rush on the phone lines outside our house. Lucy dog wants to go outside but she does not coexist with the squirrels

It is 730 am on Saturday morning

Most people want to be sleeping

sources of inspiration


I remember my first classical music concert, my mother had made a point of taking me. A beautiful theater in Anchorage, not too big, but with upholstered velvet seats that had musicians and a conductor.

I wanted to swallow it.

One of the things about classical music concerts is the motion. The stringed instruments bob, and the bows have their own synchronized dance. They are all together, but each expressing the passion of the player. The player sits with rapt-voluntary regimentation- focus on the center.

The Conductor, the leader of the dance. And old man in this case–in most cases–elegantly suited and waving his arms and hand. He leans, bending forward and swaying back.

I haven’t even talked about the music yet.

The music. That was why we’d come. The program, which I’d read intently, talked about the different pieces they’d be playing, and how some of them were named–pastoral–and was meant to invoke a specific scene. Some were abstractly named a number, and were  not meant to direct the audience’s interpretation but to be left to our own response.

I had a responsibility, as an audience, to have these described reaction. I was supposed to have certain kinds of imaginations and interpretations.

I listened, and then I looked at the faces of the musicians. And I listened again. Then I felt the seat beneath me, the velvet slick and rough depending on how I stroked it.

The music filled the world, and yet there was still room for more. I felt my mind wandering to different thoughts, sensory experiences in the room, and ideas.

I tried to shake them off and pay strict attention to the music. THAT was supposed to be the important thing.

It was years later that I remembered that struggle. Because it happened again, like a particular flavor experience of the mind. I was listening to a lecture, a wonderful thought-provoking lecture, and my mind kept flying off to the different ideas that the lecturer presented.

Pay attention!

Oh wait, no. No.

This is the point. This is what thought provoking means.


Experience gives us thoughts, and thoughts become action, which make art and changes to the world.


It’s what I’ve got

It’s What We’ve Got

My news junkie husband has been obsessed with the website, and what a debacle it has turned out to be. It’s not working very well. And the Internet has a lot of people who will talk about how a website should be created. Some are calling out in loud voices to TRASH THE WHOLE THING!!!!

I know some programmers. I asked them about it. The wisdom born of experience: Every new line of code written is another chance for a new, undiscovered problems to pop up. Starting brand new wouldn’t solve anything.

The devil you know…
You know.

This particular new item is fun for Chris to read to me because he knows it is an interest of mine.

“The contractors who worked on this site are saying that it was a game of chicken, to see who would call a halt first. This article says what they needed was a head person, not a contractor and not a government employee, to keep track of everything and give realistic reports and recommendations.”

“It’s failing because they didn’t have a project manager?”

My real life career experience, and my training, lets me picture it. With or without management, projects fail all the time. And much of the time, the project manager gets brought in not at the beginning of the project effort, but rather at the beginning of the recognition of failure.

Some ordinary person is called in to save the day. The resources are mostly used up; time, money and personnel are spinning into the end of their availability.

And so. Yes. Let’s not waste any time or resource or already expended effort.  We’re on a desert island with only the water supplies that crashed here with us.

I’ve written before about engagement. From this comfy armchair we can criticize. If we stepped up and tried it for ourselves, we’d immediately see it was harder than we thought.

We begin with mistakes. And I don’t know about you, but I end with mistakes too. This life is richly marbled with mistakes.

My friend Rocky has been blogging about something else. He’s a pastor in the Presbyterian Church I go to, and he’s really sad because a bunch of other Presbyterian churches in American have decided to separate from his church group.

This group is going to do it all over again and DO IT RIGHT.

This has been done before. And it will be done again. I can see that their new organization is taking with it all the seeds of it’s own destruction. We are all working with bugs in our code.

Revolution is messy. What have we got lying around to work with? What can we salvage from this wreck?

Wherever I go, there I am. So I had better start with me and what I know. And even if I know things aren’t right, I can start to work towards something better.

Everybody’s been doing it since forever

It takes a lot. I write this blog I don’t know if anyone Really cares.

Well, I do know that people care. I get people telling me they like it. But it is it’s pwn little island

I just read that Monty hall of let’s make a deal fame Did something very similar while he was looking for work.

He was first looking for work in New York City and still living in Montreal, He was trying really hard to get meetings with executives. He describes that he was getting nowhere. He was riding a one page Saying and mailing it to these people he called it Monties memo

Eventually one of the executive had lunch with him because they liked his writing.

He wanted a TV show. For me the writing is itself the outcome. I find this story encouraging