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January 23, 2014

Whoa, Volunteerism!


Acts of service are important to me. Much of our humanness is wrapped up in our ability to empathize with and give our time and resources to others. To me, it doesn't matter who you give to, when or how you give, but that you give. The beneficiaries of service are twofold, the giver and the recipient. The recipient gets the wealth: the brownies, the clean house, the loan of a ladder, the cup of sugar, the hand-me-down coat; the giver gets to share in the recipient's smile and maybe learn a thing or two about herself in the process.

I especially feel like the gift of volunteering time gives the giver a lot to chew over.

From January 4th through January 19th, I logged over 70 hours volunteering for GREAT Theatre's production of Wizard of Oz. These quiet days since Strike, I've been chewing over my participation in the project. As you might expect, there were lows and highs in those 70 hours. Putting up a show, especially a show with heavy special effects and a cast of 105, takes a lot of organization and a lot of hard work. Likewise, it takes a lot of organization and hard work just to keep the home fires steadily burning with clean sheets, crockpot meals, and paid bills during those 70 hours away. As I reflect and digest the experience, I think a lot about my own role. I think about the ways that I could have worked harder, made the show stronger, been more organized, or even led cleverer Munchkin warm-ups. If you put a price tag on my hard work and those 70 hours, I wonder if it might make the experience a little tainted for me. Is there any amount of money that can replace the feeling you get when you push the Oz Head to center stage on time or a parent's comment, "You are really good with kids. No, I mean it, you are really good. Thank you."

When I think about the pros and cons of my volunteering for Oz, I think about what Glinda says as Dorothy leaves Oz, "She had to learn it for herself." The fun, the fatigue, the laughter, the tears, the smiles, the puzzles, the authority, the powerlessness, the really busy days, the standing around ... It means something. Something significant.

I'm glad that I participated. I'm glad to have met some wonderful new people in the process. I am glad that I worked hard and learned a lot. Especially, I'm happy to have shared this moment with Adelaide. I cherish the moment when we were driving to a technical rehearsal and she said in her matter-of-fact way, "I love this, Mom. Thanks for making this happen for me."


January 13, 2014

'What a World'


As we relax this Monday morning from the rigors and stresses of Tech Week and Opening weekend of GREAT Theatre's Wizard of Oz, a few thoughts on this amazing experience:

Adelaide has been such a trooper. She's acclimated to long, late nights and crazy catch-as-catch-can meals on-the-fly and really has embraced her new costume-designer approved french braided hairstyle. For the last seven days, she and her fellow munchkins have carved out a little home-away-from-home in the basement of the BAC at St. Ben's. There, they live - eating, resting, playing - until someone calls them upstairs and onto the boards to create Munchkin Land for our audiences. They are a fantastic group of kids, and it has been fun to see Adelaide make lovely new friendships among her pint-sized cohort.

Additionally, the cleverness of our director's vision to bring together a cast of 105, ranging in age from 5 to 50, is a rare opportunity. It has been such a treat to witness the wonderful impression that the big stars of our show make on these younger actors. To exchange a few words with Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion backstage or see those great Jitterbugs in line for the drinking fountain makes an awesome impact. We learn by example, and our munchkins carefully scrutinize the behavior and actions of the older cast members with the thought that one day, they, too, might be as big. But sometimes, having the relationship and the connection is just enough; to be able to say, "Remember that thing we did together? When I was 7 and you were grown-up?"

"What a World," indeed, when you can have a little lunch with the Wicked Witch of the West before Opening Night and call her 'friend'.

January 7, 2014

Bring it, Minnesota. Bring. It.


"Would you like a car wash?" the gas pump sluggishly inquired.
"No, no, no, no," I replied, stabbing at the "No" button with clumsy double-gloved fingers.
It thought for a while. It looked cold. It was cold in terms of temperature because it was -20 degrees Fahrenheit, but the pump also appeared to huddle against the stiff breeze that drove the windchill down to -40.
"Would you like a receipt?" it mustered the strength to ask.
"Arrrgh. No! I would like gas, and I would like not to die of exposure while getting it!"

This delightful example of the acquisition of goods (gasoline) but not services (car wash) occurred Monday morning, one of the coldest days in central Minnesota in the last 17 years. I hedge with "one of the coldest" because it really depends on what you're asking. In terms of day-time highs on January 6th, it hasn't been as low as -15 F since 1996. When comparing all time lows, wind chill factor, etc. it ranks merely as just a very cold day. (The record low of -36 was set in 1912.)

Aside from truculent gas pumps and icy roads, however, we Mirons are rising above. Having moved from relatively balmy Iowa City (day time high of 8 degrees) we are determined to prove our mettle in this cheerful but frigid land. Adelaide and Henry skipped playing outside on Monday, but took part in a King-on-the-Mountain battle with me on Sunday. A large fraction of our Christmas presents were warm socks, long underwear, skis, and other winter gear. Every day we hop in the car and brave the glare ice to get to play practices, archery lessons, and (when the governor re-opens them) school.

Christmas is over, Minnesota. The car has gas, and the kids have cuddl duds. Let's see what you've got.

January 2, 2014

Sense and Sensibility and Skiing


Some gifts are better to give. Some are better to receive. Some are the gifts that keep on giving.

This year for Christmas, I asked Joel for one thing: a new pair of cross-country skis. Since we'd moved to the land of ice and snow, I figured that we should move there wholeheartedly and not just endure winter, but enjoy winter. Other wintertime pastimes like ice fishing and downhill skiing seem too slow or too fast, but rhythmically shushing along over the frozen land seemed a perfect fit to me.

A couple of days before the big holiday, I got my wish and was traversing a new parallel-lined highway through Quarry Park within twenty minutes of our purchase. That moment of quiet - just me, just the trees, just the orderly path laid out fresh and crisp in the snow - was a balm to the activity of the season. I'd found a favorite new thing.


Then, my favorite new thing became the kids' favorite new thing when Auntie Phoebe and Uncle Dave generously gave both Adelaide and Henry their own pair of skis for Christmas. Soon, there we were all shushing (or in Hal's case, shuffling) along a snowy trail. Perhaps they're excited because I'm excited, or perhaps their excited all on their own; still, there we all go, off into the snow at the crepuscular hour when the dashboard ambient thermometer reads - 5 , because of a great gift.


My sister, Erin, quietly graduated from St. Ben's this December. She leaves the safety, security and freedom of campus life for that awful post-college "What Do I Do Next?" time of life. Although she's got excellent prospects for her future, nothing is quite certain yet. What better gift to help with the transition than a giant tome of the collected novels of Jane Austen? Yep, that's right, we didn't give her anything practical like a whisk or a wad of cash. We gave her a doorstop of a book and a promise of a companionship in a Austen-Through-the-Year book club. One by one, I've promised to read Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Lady Susan right along with Erin through the days of 2014. Who better to help her weather the uncharted, post-collegiate waters than Elinor Dashwood, Anne Elliot and Lizzie Bennet? Now, if we can only find her a Mr. Darcy ... Ah, another Christmas, perhaps.


So, here, as we turn the corner into the early weeks of the new year, I'll be with some of my favorite gifts: curled up in front of the fireplace with Sense and Sensibility, rosy-cheeked after skiing.