Sunday, February 11, 2018

Who Lives? Who Dies? I'll Tell His Story

It took time to find these photos, but I knew they were in that memory box somewhere.

My high school drama teacher, Dick Call, died after a fierce battle against cancer. He fought long and hard, and I would have expected nothing less from this passionate man who was dearly loved by so many.

Mr. Call didn't introduce me to theatre. My mom exposed me to the great musicals of the 50s and 60s at a very young age, and I fell in love with the spotlight from the first moment I walked onto the stage at a Christmas party, dressed in a homemade nightgown and kerchief, ready to recite 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Mr. Call opened my eyes to the joy that comes from finding yourself in the theatre.

He wasn't an armchair director, not Mr. C. He would grab a script and join his cast on stage, changing our perspective on our characters purely through the power of his presence. He exposed us to the greats of the stage--anything by Shakespeare, Our Town, The Crucible, Blithe Spirit--and expanded our views of the world in the process.

He could see inside us to what was possible--depths of feeling we didn't know we had, but with his guidance, out it came. 

I wasn't the best actor in his class or part of that inner circle of students that always congregated in his room before school, but I had a place in his world.

And I mattered there.

I remember being so disappointed when he posted the cast list for this show. I wanted to be the star, the one with the most lines and the one with the most scenes. Little did I know at the time what trust Mr. C had placed in me casting me as Lady Bracknell, the best character in the show. From The Importance of Being Earnest I learned the importance of every actor on the stage, the power in delivering a funny line well, and the value of a great hat in transforming into character.

I wasn't cast in every show our school produced, and my high school ego often doubted his judgment on who got to be on stage. When he chose the musical, Something's Afoot, I complained about my place in the pit. He needed me at the keyboard, and after a few practices, I saw the wisdom behind his decision, but I still longed to be on the stage instead. Isn't that what all actors long for? From that show, I learned that every piece of the show matters, even those not in the spotlight.

Mr. C also had the gift of relating to teenagers. He listened, and he counseled. He never grew up, so you always knew that somewhere inside him, he felt what you felt--and understood. Sometimes he could see right into your soul and know what part you needed to get you through the struggles of real life just outside his classroom door.

High school was hard for me, as it is for many, and I live with a few regrets and bad memories. Don't we all? I always wanted to be a cheerleader, but aside from the capacity to cheer really loud, I didn't really fit the mold.  Thanks to Mr. Call, I got to live that dream in a solo scene from Vanities--in a real cheerleader uniform and everything. It was a drop of salve on a gaping popularity wound, and those few moments acting the ditzy cheerleader filled a little of the pain.
I only know of one member of our troupe who went on to have theatre be their life (and John was the best of the best of us, without question), but I transferred my love of theatre to my own kids, watching them experience the miracle that happens inside when the house lights come down and the floodlights come on. They learned that not all problems can be solved, but at least you can forget about them for a few hours a night while on the stage portraying someone else.

There are hundreds of people all over the country who carry a piece of Richard Call with them. Snippets of shows come back without warning, rooting their way into the most mundane of daily tasks. I have a friend named Ernest, and little does he know that I often hear his name as a punch line I recited dozens of times. Even when Brad and I walked through Elsinore Castle in Denmark this summer, I came face to face with Ophelia, and in that moment I was back in a flowing nightgown in Twin Falls, Idaho, reciting, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember."

While most of the world will never recognize his name as a famous actor or director, those who truly knew Dick Call will never forget the imprint he left on their lives and in their hearts. He was so much more than a director and actor. He was a teacher and mensch, one who gauged success by the family he loved and the people who continue his passion for what he loved--transforming words on pages to intimate moments that connect you with the world of human experience.

Thank you, Mr. C. Thank you for touching my life and guiding me through the rough road of high school. The world is better for you having been here.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Admitted Lover of Humbug

How long it's been since I enjoyed a show this much I can't even remember. Maybe the first time I saw "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" with Donny Osmond in Chicago back in the 90s? (That's a good story. You can read about it here. And for the record, Eve was five days old when the show opened, and I still went at least twice. It's what I do.)

I don't understand the controversy surrounding "The Greatest Showman." I mean, we all live in the Google age. I'm sure I'm not the only one who googled P.T. Barnum as I left the theatre to see how much of the story was accurate. Was I disappointed this wasn't a biography? No. Aren't we all wise enough to judge between truth and fiction? Newsflash--"Game of Thrones" isn't an accurate portrayal of the Middle Ages. (Although I've never seen it, the dragons gave me my first clue.)

Hollywood feels obligated to create their versions of famous people and pass them off as history. Rarely are they completely corroborated by even a quick Wikipedia check.

Can't we all drop the pretense of serious historians and just enjoy something for its face value? (Finally live a little, finally laugh a little--see what I did there?) When did we all become so uptight about facts and accuracy? They don't matter here.

This is a show of fun--catchy tunes and lyrics, incredible dancing, beautiful people, and suitable for families to enjoy--the kind of show P.T. Barnum may have written about himself.

I went with some family over the holidays and returned later that same night to see it again. I've seen it a few more times, and it brings me joy every time--from the first notes to the final curtain.

Let's all relax and revel in a shared moment of pure joy and entertainment. That's rare in this world of government shutdowns, nuclear threats, and economic strife.

If you haven't seen "The Greatest Showman," get there before it leaves the theatre. Stomp and clap and sing . . . and enjoy the greatest show.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Biggest Event of 2017

I don't have any other pictures from this big day.

Can you believe these are all ours?

Makayla joined our family on December 28th, and it was a perfect few days, aside from the migraine that felled me just before the wedding dinner on the 27th (happened at Heidi's dinner, too. I don't get migraines very often--why on weddings?).

We had 80+ people over for Mexican food the night before and housed 15 additional people for a few days before and after the wedding. It was one of the best times ever--late-night games, movies, long talks, and food food food!

Makayla's grandfather performed their ceremony, and it was one of the most beautiful I've ever attended. How tender to have your grandpa who's known you every day of your entire life marry you? I felt very privileged to be there that day.

Nothing makes me happier than having all of my family together. I love each of their personalities and quirks, and the more we add to the Sanatorium, the better it gets!

Brad's sister Amy took this picture at the Gilbert temple right after their sealing. I really need to get better at taking pictures with my phone instead of hauling out my big camera. Now that I rarely use the big camera, I have this weird idea that little things aren't worth a crappy phone picture. Another mental block I need to get past--literary and deep blog posts. This is my family record, not a candidate for the Pulitzer. Twoof my goals for 2018--more photos and blog posts.

Especially since this photo is already outdated--Karli and Tucker announced they're expecting a new baby in July!

Friday, January 5, 2018

I'm Off on an Adventure!

Toto, we're not in Arizona any more!

Guess where I am?

I am one of the very lucky few that beat the bomb cyclone along the East Coast and made it to Boston without a flight cancellation! I arrived Wednesday, just as the first flakes were hitting Florida. I got snug in my AirBnB apartment Wednesday night and woke up to snow! It's been years since I was in a big snowstorm, and I would guess this is the biggest I've ever seen in my entire life. I chronicled the increasing depth on the garbage cans outside my window.

Up to fifteen inches in certain places in Boston, the reports say. My unscientific measurements would have to agree.

Yesterday was glorious. I took three stomps through the snow to get food and and to get my bearings, and I felt like a little kid living an adventure story. Ok. It wasn't that exciting, but for an AZ girl, it was pretty close. There were few cars (and even fewer people) out, and those that were brave enough were generally stuck (one car was being dug out by a skinny young guy in a Santa onesie and hat). Snow plows cleared the roads in groups of three, efficiently and regularly keeping the roads accessible. Sidewalks were a different story, and I had to blaze my own trails with my trusty waterproof duck boots and Siri. I may have grinned like a ten-year-old boy out with his first BB gun as I plodded knee deep through the snow.

I had to buy a new coat for such an adventure, since I've lived in AZ way too long to have leftovers from our law school years in Chicago. Who knew that a $54 coat from Amazon would be just as toasty as a high-end coat from The North Face? Temperatures yesterday were beautiful--hovering around 30 degrees with only a few (albeit strong) gusts of wind. The weather made the adventure even better. I was cold, but not miserable. I loved it all.

Today the weather is brutal but clear, and I have yet to venture outside, even though it's almost 2 pm. I can hear the wind howl and I watch the flakes swirl across the plowed streets and now-shoveled walks, knowing that a different experience awaits me today. I've been cocooned with a cup of herbal tea, a blanket across my lap, preparing lesson plans for school next week. It's been a good morning, but this afternoon begins the real adventure and the real reason I'm in Boston--I'm taking a class on the Constitution, preparing for a new seminar I'm teaching. On Monday. Yeah, I cut this one a little close, but I'm excited, and a little bit nervous, to be honest. I haven't been a student inside a regular classroom in almost three decades. Here's hoping I survive the Arctic blast as I walk outside!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Rewrite the Stars 2018

My blog and my yearly goal last year sadly lagged. I missed it. I missed the accountability and I miss the record of my family and activities. I'm hoping to get back to it, not for anyone else this time but just for me and the record I need to leave for my family.

Here's my necklace for 2018, my peridot birthstone with an 8-pointed star. Unlike years past where all focused on a one-word large goal, I do have eight smaller goals I'm working on this year. They all, however, focus on the center and a guiding Star in my life.

As I reflected on 2017 and my first full year of teaching, I recognized one adjustment I need to make for 2018, and it's this:
No matter what else fills my plate or fills my mind or fills my time,my primary job in this world is my family.

Here's to a year of manageable improvement in small steps, a year of accepting limitations and learning from failures, a year of saying no when necessary, and a year of joy surrounded by those people and things that I love most.

*And if you missed the reference in the title, you really NEED to see "The Greatest Showman." A pure delight--just like the joy that comes when seeing a show on Broadway.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Weekend

I'm tired of this.

More than 50 dead last night in Las Vegas.

We had a peaceful, joyful, family-filled weekend listening to General Conference--all of us piled on blankets and pillows with notebooks and treats in the messy family room.

We had dinner with family then a quick visit to the Mesa Temple Visitor's Center to listen to Karli sing songs about love and Christ.

We had a long talk with Lily about her plans for college next year--ACT scores, entrance fees, and how much things really cost in the grown-up world.

We sent kids up to bed with instructions to brush and read while Brad and I took a quick walk around the block in the suddenly balmy evening.

We said prayers, and I was so grateful in mine for an almost perfect weekend surrounded by the people and things that I love.

And I woke up to six notifications on my phone of the shooting at a concert in Las Vegas. Brad and I attended a concert at Mandalay Bay once: Josh Groban. I've walked the halls of that hotel and the Strip, and somehow that makes this shooting even harder for me, makes it more personal and immediate. We drive through Las Vegas on our way to Idaho. Las Vegas is close.

I can't stop thinking about the people and their families, those whose lives changed instantly. I can't stop thinking about how quickly life changes and how we never know when it will be us.

Prayers are different this morning--still full of gratitude for my family and my life, but now they are headlined with prayers for healing. Prayers for this world we live in.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

It's Been Too Long

It's been too long since I really blogged--sat down at the keyboard and let ideas flow and gel and cement.

My life is so good right now. But it's very busy, and time with the computer (let alone time with my thoughts) is generally sucked up with grading or learning more things to teach my students.

Brad generously sent me up here to the cabin last night because he knew I've been missing it. Even though it's just been for a few hours (and for most of them I was thankfully sleeping with the window open and the cool breeze blowing across my bed), I realize how much I needed to sit. To think. To stop.

Elk and deer. Bluebirds and squirrels. And a pair of retired hikers with their trail poles. The only companionship I've had all morning.

It's been nice.

School is much more manageable this year, but I know I still need to do better. I hope that life is settling down now and that I can get into a groove where I remember the necessary more frequently.

Taking more pictures

Watching more football games

Having lunch with friends

Reading bedtime stories

Attending the temple

Pondering and praying

Helping with elementary homework

And sitting just quietly to smell the flowers.

Here's to new resolutions and important moments.