Friday, February 27, 2015

Indiana, a Love/Hate Relationship

I love my state.

There are 4 beautiful seasons here.  There's sugar cream pie, tenderloins as big as your head and mushroom hunting.  Indiana is basketball, arts, industry, smart folks and natural wonders all over the state.

But I love it most because Indiana is where I was born, grew up, went to school, fell in love, married and it's where my family is (and probably always will be.)  Early in our relationship, when he worked at NASA, I asked Clay if it would be possible, someday, to move back to Indiana.  He traded rocket science for diesel engine science and made it happen, and I am forever thankful for that.

Lately, however, my Indiana pride has been waning.

We're a mess.

Mess Example 1:  Education Nonsense.  For the past year, Governor Mike Pence and our elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, have been been engaged in a very public battle.  Ritz is an educator, librarian and long-time union representative for the teachers in the Washington Township Schools in Indianapolis.  She is smart and wise, but she has one fatal flaw -- she is a Democrat in a Statehouse full of Republicans.  She defeated the incumbent State Superintendent with 53% of the vote, and the Governor hasn't let her forget it.  He continues to chip away at her authority while she continues to fight for sanity in the areas of high-stakes testing, teacher accountability and school rankings.  It's a complex affair involving not only state politics but Federal funding as well.  You can read more about the sad struggle here.

Indiana voters feel cheated.

Not good for the schools, teachers and primarily, our kids.

But it's not the saddest mess.

Mess Example 2:  Gun Nonsense.  Our District 69 State Representative, Jim Lucas, has authored several bills this session which make me sad and scared.  Lucas has authored HB1143, which would prohibit a state agency from regulating the possession or transportation of firearms on land that is owned or leased by the state.  So, despite the fact that park rangers don't usually carry weapons, you may pack your gun along with your sandwiches for  a picnic in one of our beautiful state parks.  You may slip your revolver between your books in your backpack and tote it around on any public university campus.  You may even carry your weapon into the Madison State Psychiatric Hospital.  Thinking about the implications of this bill, I don't feel one bit safer.  Do you?

Lucas has also authored HB1144, which would repeal the law that requires a person to obtain a license to carry a handgun.  Dear Rep. Lucas and The NRA, I've just got to tell you, licencing and education would go a long, long way toward convincing non-gun carrying/non-gun loving  people like me that safety truly is your concern.  The NRA was founded upon the platforms of safety and education -- I can't understand why that would ever change.  How in the world can it hurt your cause to encourage people to be safer and smarter with their guns?  It makes me shiver knowing that if this bill passes, a person could go into a shop (a WM, for instance) and buy a gun along with his pound of hamburger or a quart of oil.  I can't drive a car, build a fence or catch a fish without a license or permit.  Please, oh please tell me how eliminating licenses for guns makes me safer?

There there is HB 1244.  Say I own a cupcake store.  And say that I, as the cupcake store owner, would much rather you didn't bring your gun in my shop when you purchase a cupcake.  Well, if something nasty happens while you are there, say, someone else comes in and wants to steal a cupcake while bandying a gun about, and the gun goes off and you get shot in the melee, you can sue me.  All because I don't want guns in my little bakery.  Conversely, if I post a cute little sign in the window of my shop which says, "Sure, come on in and bring your unlicensed gun with you, my NRA/ cupcake-loving customer," I would be immune from civil liability if you get shot.  This is ridiculous nonsense.  Not feeling safer.  Not a bit.

Lucas' HB 1494 would prevent a doctor from noting in a patient's records that said patient is a gun owner.  The doctor also cannot tell anyone that the patient is a gun owner.  This adds a freaky little NRA twist to the already confidential Hippa laws.  I don't know about you, but not once has my doctor ever asked me if I carry a gun.  And let's see -- if I would have some sort of mental illness, and go into my doctor's office and tell her about the arsenal I have amassed at home and how I would like to shoot some folks I don't care for, wouldn't it be prudent for my doctor to tell someone?  Like the police?  Meh.

And, finally,  Lucas is sponsoring  Senate Bill 433 in the House, which is authored by our State Senator, Brent Steele, and which "repeals the prohibition against manufacturing, importing, selling, or possession a sawed-off shotgun."  How did Representative Lucas know just what I was asking Santa for this year?  

But this gun nonsense, although it troubles me deeply, is still not the saddest thing going on in the statehouse.

Mess Example 3:  Hate.  On Wednesday, the Indiana Senate passed SB 101 by a margin of 40-10.  That's 40 Republicans and 10 Democrats, in case you were wondering.  Republican authors stated that the intent of the bill was to "increase legal protection for those with strongly held religious beliefs."  

Specifically, the law will allow freedom from prosecution to a business owner who would rather not provide services to customers whose lifestyle choices run contrary to the deeply-held religious ideals of the business owner.  

More specifically, it lets businesses refuse to serve gays and same-sex couples.    

Hmmmm.  So, digressing for a moment, and following the logic of the Indiana General Assembly, as the owner of the cupcake store, I must allow a gun-toting customer to enter my shop and show off his weapon while he chooses his pastries and scares the ever-living shit out of me.  On the other hand, I can refuse to sell cupcakes to two lovely women or two lovely men who come in to choose sweets for their wedding reception, because that's what Jesus would want me to do to save my soul.  Because that's how Jesus would have done it.  Because Jesus was like that, you know -- always rejecting those who had been rejected by society.   Always trying to steal a little joy. 

(Sidebar for an important question:  What does the Christian cupcake store owner do if  the gay couple have matching holsters and sidearms?)

This bill is a gateway to further discrimination.  Simple as that. 

Say I am a Catholic cupcake buyer.  I know that there are certain other religious groups that don't care for my belief system -- to the point, they think I'm going straight to hell.  Is it OK for them not to sell me a cupcake when I go into their store?  What if I was Jewish?  Or Muslim?  Does a Westboro Baptist Church mindset give you the right to refuse me service because my religious values challenge your own?  

Say I am a Catholic cupcake seller.  And say I don't much care for the views of the Westboro Baptist Church folks, primarily because they think I am going straight to hell not only for being a Catholic, but also for enjoying a beer at the Indianapolis 500. (I know this is true, because I read it on their posters outside the track last May.)  But if they wanted a cupcake, I'd sell them a cupcake.  Because normally, as a cupcake shop owner, I wouldn't be asking someone how they worshiped their creator as I handed them their treat.  I also wouldn't ask my customers who they sleep with, who they voted for for President and how their last poop was, because those things have absolutely no bearing or impact upon my business, and I'm fairly certain they have no bearing on my salvation.  In fact, if I were a smart cupcake shop owner, I would welcome all people of all races, religions, creeds, ethnicities and sexual orientations.  That attitude has a bearing on my salvation.  And, I would sell a lot more cupcakes that way.  

Everyone knows that cupcakes are love, right?  And love is God.  And by selling everyone I meet a cupcake, I'm protecting the cornerstone of my religion:  love.  Because God is in the cupcake.  More importantly, God is in the face and hands of every person who comes to my shop seeking that love.  If I am judged and thrown into some fiery pit because I sold a cupcake to someone whose lifestyle is contrary to my faith's teachings, I will shut up about this and you will never hear from me again.  (I also know that if I am condemned for a loving cupcake sale, I will go to hell a lot quicker for a lot worse things.  Good thing I don't much believe in that sort of hell anymore.)  

This Senate Bill is not about religious freedom, it's about hate.  It's about hiding behind a religious state-sponsored billboard in order to surreptitiously hate others.

And I would go so far as to say that it's criminal for the State of Indiana to continue to foster and legalize hate among its residents.  Which would make SB101 a hate crime.  Which would make the State of Indiana in violation of Federal law.  Do you think some smart lawyer could take a run to the Supreme Court with that?  

That's really not what I want.  I want to get Indiana out of the national spotlight.  I want the Washington Post and the New York Times to quit writing about the messes in state government and this congressional session and go back to writing about our huge tenderloins.  

I want us to be a state of educational progress, safety and inclusion.  

That would make me love Indiana again.  


Monday, February 23, 2015

Drowsy Crafts

Grandpa Dale loved theater, and whenever he was in a show, he would make a little something for his cast mates.  I thought that was a lovely idea, and copied it for my pals in The Drowsy Chaperone.

Last fall, I made my friend, Lori, a felt bookmark.  So she asked me to make a few for her sisters-in-law for Christmas:
 I embroidered on felt, then attached the felt circles to stretchy headbands to go around a book.

They came out pretty nicely, so I decided bookmarks would be fun for the cast.  I made lots of monkey heads, a circus conductor, a Gibson with olives, a cupcake, a nightingale and a cat in pajamas.  But instead of a stretchy headband, I attached them to ribbon which I had ironed on a transfer of the show name and date.  I added a button on one end and a little pony tail holder on the other. (Thanks, Pintrest!) And of course, I forgot to take pictures until it was almost too late, but here are a few:

Digger, AKA Adolpho with his cat in pajamas

For the rest of the cast and crew, I tried painting on wine glasses and coffee mugs for the first time.  Drowsy logo on one side, a line from the show on the other.  After they were dry, I put them in the oven for 40 minutes at 350 degrees -- I hope the paint stays on as promised!

Now that the show is over, I'm anxious to get back to the sewing machine.  Right after I finish my novel.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Drowsy Chaperone, the Exhausted Me

Many magazine articles targeting the over-50 woman (me) tell us that a key to staying young is to try something new.

I am happy to report that it is true.  Stepping out of your comfort zone, doing something different, learning a new skill -- although sometimes really scary and uncomfortable, a new "something" can ultimately increase your happiness and self-confidence.  Yep.  It's true.

What did I do?  I starred in a Broadway show!
The whole cast and crew (except for Fred Lewis!)  So, we had a re-take later!

OK, not "starred", but I was the first character on stage.
OK, after the narrator, Man in Chair.
And while I wasn't on Broadway, the show was, and won many  Tony awards in 2006.
I was in the Jackson County Community Theater's production of The Drowsy Chaperone, which we performed 5 times to lovely, enthusiastic audiences at The Pines' Evergreen Room (the site of our wedding reception 32 years ago!)

Have you seen the show?  All over the internet, they call it "the best show you've never heard of."  It's a show within a show -- the Main in Chair listens to his cherished recording of the show which he envisions taking place in his apartment.  He adds his commentary, both theatrical and social (!) as the show goes on around him.  Really, you should go see a production as soon as you can.  It's just fun -- I promise you will love it, and leave with a smile.  (If you live near me, Beef and Boards is doing the show in Indianapolis in April and May -- go!)
 Monkey, monkey, monkey. And Janet Van de Graaff.  And Man in Chair.  And Hannah!  

I didn't plan on being in a show.  And that might just be the best part about this whole story -- I sort of stumbled into it.  (That's a little Drowsy pun.)  I'm going to tell my story now, so when I am old(er) and gray(er), I can look back on this experience.  Like Man in Chair.  Sigh.

My church pal, Darin (a member of the JCCT Board of Directors), called me last fall and asked if I would like to help with the music for the theater's winter dinner production.  I was to play for auditions and then help the actors learn the music.
Sure.  I could do that.
Right away, though, I knew I was in over my head.
Some of those trying out brought me music I had never seen (or even heard of) before.  In strange keys.  I'm an OK-ish sight reader, and did fine with  Mr. Cellophane from Chicago and some Rogers and Hammerstein stuff,  but these auditions weren't my shining moment.  Really, Darin -- Chess?

I could tell the director, Andrew, was a little put out with me.
Andrew was a young man from Louisville, who had convinced the theater board that putting on this elaborate musical was a great idea -- he was looking to add some directing credits to his resume, and had performed in this show at another theater.  It was exciting!

Consequently, he cast his friends from Louisville in some of the major roles.  This, of course, surprised many of the JCCT regulars.  Hmmmm.

Well, on we forged.  Andrew had a CD of the show accompaniment, so I was only needed to run parts.  This in itself was tricky, as each song is long and complex, and changes keys many times.  Yikes.  So I downloaded the CD, watched YouTube videos of the show and plowed on as best I could through the month of November.

And then in December, Andrew quit.

He said that the 100+ mile round trip drive from Louisville to Jackson County (or "the middle of nowhere" as he called it on Facebook) for rehearsals was going to be cost prohibitive.  I get that, but Louisville and Brownstown have always been 59 miles apart.  Always.  Even when Andrew was pitching the show to the Board.  Even then.  But I digress ...

And the cast members from Louisville (all but our dear Wanda AKA Trix, the Aviatrix) quit with him.

I thought we were sunk.  I was sure it was over.  It was a gloomy meeting of those of us remaining, especially when Darin read Andrew's letter of resignation, in which he said that another reason he was leaving was that "the Jackson County cast wasn't in it 100%."

Oh, Andrew, darling, you were so wrong.

Darin stepped up to the plate -- he took on the job of director, even though he had been cast as the romantic lead role.  I told him I would do whatever I could to help him out, which I thought meant learning the entire score, since Andrew didn't leave the accompaniment CD with us.  Holy cats! I knew this meant that the next month or two would be spent exclusively at the piano, learning those difficult songs.  Good for my brain, traumatic for my spirit.

But then the Board agreed to purchase the beautiful fully-orchestrated score from MTI/RMS.  It was expensive, but so worth it -- jazzy rhythms, big brass, fantastic percussion -- 1000 times better anything I could have done on the piano.  Heavy sigh of relief.  The Sinfonia program allowed us to tailor the score for our actors -- speed up, slow down, change keys, vamp.  It was a lot to learn, and we spent many hours with the program to get it just right (or almost just right, anyway.)

Roles were re-cast, and I stepped into the part of Mrs. Tottendale, the rich, goofy, somewhat senile hostess of the big wedding, who, in 1928, still wore her Civil-war era hoop-skirted Fancy Dress.  (Our sweet friend, Bridey, stepped in a music director, thank goodness!)

There was so much to learn -- dialogue, songs, blocking.  (I didn't even know what blocking was!)  And dance steps.  Ugh.  Dance steps.

Oh, I'm a heck of a free-form dancer at wedding receptions -- let me do my own thing and I can dance the heels right off of my shoes (I did it, really!  At Lauren and Jake's wedding last November!  And the story of getting those heels replaced is definitely another blog post)  but the minute the DJ plays The Electric Slide or Cupid Shuffle or any of those popular group dances, I'm out of there -- I just can't do it.  I've tried Jazzercize and Zumba -- I just stink at those, too.  (But I might give Zumba one more shot, as my new pal, Kat, AKA The DC's Kitty, teaches at our gym.  She already knows what a poor dancer I am, as she was the choreographer for the show, and sweetly told me "not quite" many times when I just couldn't get the steps right!)

Choreographer Kitty Katty and her sweet real-life sister Kelli

I learned the steps.  I learned how to do the dances in a fancy dress.  I learned how to do my own stage makeup and secure my wig.  I learned how to do a spit take -- on a Methodist minister, no less!  I learned how to quash my pre-show jitters with a 1/2 shot of Makers, despite our director's warnings about alcohol, caffeine, heavy foods, etc.  Sorry pal -- this old lady needed a little something for her nerves!

I learned how fulfilling it is to do something new.  To meet new people and make new friends.  (See how excited I was?)
With my new good friend, Job
Good grief.  I look like Aunt Bea here.  Toot, toot tootsie!  

Best of all, I learned how delicious it is to make lemonade when you're handed a great big basket of lemons. Despite the major trials we all went through with this show, it was a great success, thanks to teamwork.  From the stage to the ticket sales to the props and sets and costumes, it's one big team, and the JCCT has an amazing team of people who really love and care for the theater, and for one another.  I am really proud to have joined that team, and really proud that we made it happen.  Together.  

Granted, being in a show is not as adventurous as climbing Kilimanjaro or hiking the Pacific Coast Trail (yes, we did just see Wild) or publishing your novel.

But for me, it was a great adventure.  Something new that I will treasure forever.

Peace.  And a big bouquet of roses.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winter Weirdness

 Little darling, it's been a long, cold, not-so-lonely winter.  Here are some fun pictures to warm you up.

My favorite boy and my favorite dog  

Olive modeling Tottendale Wig #1.  So much cuter on her!

I just love this one of Clay and Olive 

All the boys watching the video of "All About the Bass."  Hilarious.

  Honey's weird cat sleeping posture.  

 This one put me to sleep, too.

Annie, the Queen.  Just making herself comfy on the desk.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Abby's Baptism

Abigail Joan Anderson was baptized on Sunday, February 8 at St. Agnes Church, Nashville, Indiana.  I'll just let the pictures tell the story.

 I just love Sarah's face here!

 Abby and her godparents, Amy and Josh

Yes, we did have a cake accident on the way in.