I Love a Rainy Day

9 February 2013

Maybe some homeschoolers don’t like rainy days. I understand– it’s hard to stay cooped up inside your house all day. I am a busybody with two very active boys and they need the outdoors like they need food or air. But on a day like today I was especially glad to be homeschooling and spending my day inside with these two amazing individuals. I’m so lucky to be sharing my days with them. I love being able to sleep in until we all want to wake up, the three of us snuggled together in our family bed, warm together against the biting cold air of a winter morn. We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast, then headed back upstairs to get them dressed & teeth brushed. After a winding rabbit’s hole of imaginary games and stories (with one boy dressed, the other who remained indefinitely pajama’ed), and a lot of looking out the window at the rain, watching the puddles on the sidewalk fill up, counting seconds between thunder and lightening, and listening to the rain pound against our roof, our roomie David yelled upstairs that it was snowing! We rushed downstairs to the back door and saw the tiny pellets of hail bouncing around on our lawn. The little boys seemed un-phased by this phenomenon, even oblivious to it, but David and I were appreciative and in awe of the rare sight. Just as he hail was melting and the glorious moment dissolving away, CRASH FLASH!!! The loudest clap of thunder occurred simultaneous to a bright bolt of lightening that seemed to be attacking the lawn right in front of us! I screamed and started to run away impulsively before I caught myself, relieved no property of mine was now on fire. The bolt must have touched down no more than a block away from us, a notion confirmed by the fire trucks that raced down our street 5-10 minutes later. We laughed at our own silliness and said a quick prayer for those at the fire truck’s destination and went about our indoor, rainy-day homeschooling activities. What’s on today’s agenda? No, not pages of desk work, handwriting practice, sheets of math problems, or a spelling quiz. No review of classroom rules or treats for the child whose desk is the neatest and who can sit up straight with their hands folded. Our home learning environment today was filled with silly drawings that ended being an alphabet game, talking about weather and the water cycle, gazing out the window watching the ice on the rooftops turn to steam when the sun came out, construction of vehicles that can simultaneously deliver mail, collect garbage, and fly through the air on a helicopter (made by scotch-taping toys together of course), and lots more creative play than even this mama can document or keep track of. Sure, by the end of the day we managed to count a little money, knock out 4 pages in his math textbook, and whiz through all 8 of his little readers, sounding out lovely 3-letter words while marveling at the silly things cats, rats, and pups do, but that’s really not the beauty of homeschooling. In fact, those academic activities were probably the least educational and definitely the least interesting part of our day. When you are a homeschooling family, I think you are much more acutely aware of how deep and wide the learning experience is, and can appreciate the myriad of ways a child learns. I am so thankful to be aware of this. And I love most that on a cozy, stormy day like it was, that I can spend it with my two little buddies, who are making these memories with me, and I with them.

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Homeschooling Adventures

1 February 2013

Our schedule is changing again, which for this normally inflexible, routine-addicted mama means I’m a little emotional about it, and that this was a change that is long overdue. We ran out of money to keep sending PJ to the homeschool co-op that we were attending. I am really sad about pulling him out, and the loss of that regular community, but he has been particularly needy lately, and never seems to want me to leave him there anyway. So he’s not upset by it at all. I think we probably need more time together doing fun things that do not depend on time, schedules, or things like that. I need to build back up the trust I lost all the times I’ve dropped him off places, and we need to recoup the “us time” that we missed when I was working and directing the play. So we are quitting the co-op, and I signed him up for a couple of classes that the public charter is paying for (yay for free stuff!). Tomorrow we have a fun day planned of PE class in the morning and a playdate in the afternoon. I hope to start going back to our homeschool group park days once a week and I really want to get back into doing field trips every couple of weeks too. I am fortunate to have built up a great network of homeschooling families and like-minded moms who are a great support and sounding board when it comes to being the best mom I can be and navigating the unchartered, vast ocean that is the homeschooling experience. I think I’m getting over the mourning of our old routine and I’m excited to start this new one, looking forward to more quality time with my children, and focusing more on our life together. I love that homeschooling affords us the luxury to change our schedule and our outlook on life when what we’re doing isn’t working for us. I know the friendships we’ve made at the co-op are not coming to an end, and look forward to all the fun times ahead!

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A Civil War Christmas: A Retrospective

16 January 2013

President Lincoln, General Lee, General Grant, Wordsworth Longfellow, and the ensemble, all from opposite sides of the Potomac sing 'I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day'

This past fall I had the privilege to direct a very unique and powerful play, perhaps one of the most universally moving pieces in American theatre today. A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration is Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel’s first venture into the musical genre, and it is a real winner. I’ve talked before about how important this piece is, so I won’t get into that again. The show has come and gone–swiftly as sand through the fingers–and life since has moved on far too quickly. But the effect that the show had on all of our lives– those of us in the cast, in the church, and in the community– will be lasting and cannot be undone.

Our short 3-performance run turned out around 1,400 people in all, packing the house out at around 600 the last night. I proudly had to give up my seat in the upper balcony that night. The cast, made up of church members, members of our sister church True Vine, and a few random community members I met through Downey Arts Coalition, many of whom have never been in a play before, turned out surprising and powerful performances, which left raw emotions, and newly realized familiar old music lingering in the mind.

Worship Arts Pastor David Stanton portrayed the abolitionist, pacifist Quaker soldier, Chester Manton Saunders

The long process was a journey of journeys. We hit the ground running after a long and stressful casting period. It is not easy to cast a play with 80 characters spread out over 27 cast members, navigating scene overlaps, actor schedules, and costume changes. We didn’t receive either the rights to the play or the music until nearly halfway through the process (thanks Dramatist Play Service!!), and bearing the heavy weight of responsibility for such an important production proved to be a heavy burden on my mind and my family. Yet nonetheless, by the grace of God, a lot of faith, and the patient, steadfast support of those whose shared this vision, we saw this thing through until the glorious end. And it was worth everything.

To explain some of the pictures here, the visual look of the opening went through many phases. I finally settled on the above configuration in the eleventh hour. This is a good example of how the staging of this play was more complicated than I expected, with things happening all over the stage simultaneously, spanning different times and spaces, inter-cutting like a movie. So glad we had all the levels and staging areas that the FBCD sanctuary had to offer.

A young Elizabeth Keckley is taught to sew by her mother, desperate to give her daughter a trade that will make her valuable and save her life

Just want to point out a few very memorable performances. Newcomer Rafaela Ramirez turned out a heartfelt and moving performance as Aggie, the mother of Elizabeth Keckley in a flashback scene. Ramirez portrayed many characters and all her performances were solid as a rock. I was thrilled to direct our Pastor of Worship Arts and my dear friend, David Stanton (pictured above), as the abolitionist Quaker union soldier, Chester Manton Saunders. Working alongside him was another newcomer, Manual Garay, who brought a devastatingly delicate strength to the brooding Decatur Bronson, a black union soldier who carries a heavy burden of both rage and sorrow. Senior Pastor Steve Shangraw demonstrated once again his range and depth with the vast array of characters and songs he performed. Even the smallest role was fully realized both internally and physically. I told him if this whole pastor thing doesn’t pan out, he could always fall back on a career in the theatre. ;-) And lastly, youngster Daniel Frometa had great range and depth in his many roles, spanning from a wounded soldier who predicts the Lincoln assassination, to a young confederate willing to shed every drop of blood for his country.

The climax of the play struck a powerful cord as a soldier must face the horrid circumstance of a dark and angry vow

We had some great publicity, thanks largely to an incredible postcard designed by Andrew. We are also very grateful to The Downey Patriot for covering our play twice before the opening, and printing a review after. The church submitted a brief informative article that appeared in the Community section, and DAC member Marisa Urutia Gedney wrote a great piece after an interview with me that was prominently placed in the paper and I think brought a lot of attention to our upcoming production. Then after the show, Patriot contributor and DAC member Carol Kearns was so moved by the performance that she penned a glowing review.

Life for me personally got very stressful during the last few weeks of rehearsal. The last few weeks of rehearsal are always very stressful, of course, but around Thanksgiving I was called in to substitute at Cerritos College again, teaching Fundamentals of Acting twice a week for a 4.5-hour class. I was so pleased to take the job, but the timing was a perfect storm. Using a babysitter is hard enough for me, but the fact that our family was spread out between Fullerton, Brea (the kids), Santa Monica (Andrew), and Norwalk (me), and then having to collect the kids and rush back to Downey for rehearsal at night, made life pretty tough. I generally hate fast food, but I confess it was a necessity during that time! We all got sick afterward, the kids became very clingy and needy, all of which just made me feel incredibly guilty. It was a relief afterward to be able to throw myself headfirst back into mothering full time after finals and the show closing.

Yet through all this, I have no regrets and still count even the hardest moments as a blessing for our whole family.  Everyone had fun, and doing theatre together as a family (whatever that looks like) has always been a dream of Andrew’s and mine. I had the thought one night during all this, when I realized that I spend a couple of days per week right now warming up actors, critiquing scenes, and giving acting tips, I thought, “Wow, I’m doing it. I’m a real theatre professional. This is what I’m doing with my life.” Sure it’s not perfect. It’s at a church, my actors are amateurs, it’s “just Downey”… but on the other hand, by night I’m directing a new Paula Vogel play (!!), in a great space, with a very talented and dedicated cast, who will perform in front of a HUGE crowd, and by day I’m teaching college. It is not what I expected of my career when I began it 10 years ago, but it’s pretty great. I’m one lucky kid.

In addition, I was so proud that our five-year-old had his theatrical debut in this show. We really didn’t know if this would work out for him, because he is such a free spirit and isn’t that great at following directions, lol. =) But as the opening grew near, he became more and more eager to do it. The first night (dress rehearsal) a couple unexpected things happened for him and he ended up running around the stage looking for a spot to go to. I paired him up with a big kid the next night and all was well. I really think he is a performer at heart, so it was great to give him this inaugural opportunity. It was thrilling to see him get nervous, develop a plan with him, see him face his fears, and come out the other end feeling accomplished, excited, and relieved.

I’m so grateful to FBCD for believing in this play. It had a very powerful impact on so many people. I’m very thankful to all who supported the cast and crew in this effort. I’m thankful to all the community members who supported the production in a variety of ways, even just to come to the show. We really did something special in Downey that will have a lasting impact. We at the DAC have more ideas and plans for theatre in Downey, but none so huge as A Civil War Christmas. It will most certainly be the last of its kind for a while. But the future looks bright, and I am eager about what lies ahead.

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Civil War Spotlight: Decatur Bronson & Black Union Soldiers

27 November 2012

Fort Pillow Massacre

Our leading man in A Civil War Christmas, portrayed by the very talented Manuel Garay, is a symbolic character the playwright named Decatur Bronson. His name is a combination of two war heroes who fought bravely for the Union: James H. Bronson (1838-1884) and Decatur Dorsey (1836-1891), but his story is emblematic of the many black union soldiers who courageously and sacrificially fought and died in what many considered to be the white man’s war.

The real-life Dorsey and Bronson were both recipients of the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, respectively for their courage and heroism in The Battle of Crater and The Battle of Chafin’s Farm. They were both born into slavery, and upon obtaining their freedom, instead of relishing in it, chose instead enlist to in the Army. Our character references The Battle of Fort Pillow (also named The Massacre at Fort Pillow), at which neither of the historical characters fought. Fort Pillow, however, was an important conflict in the African-American story. It is considered by many historians to be the most racially charged battle of the war, and the few black soldiers who escaped with their lives remember it as a massacre– with none of their surrendering black comrades being spared. A congressional committee later determined that over 300 black Americans were slain that day.

Our character carries with him the burden of that day, along with all the injustices he has lived in his lifetime. His beloved wife Rose (play by the lovely and haunting Essence Brown) was kidnapped off their own front porch and in Bronson’s words, “every Confederate I kill is a bridge to reach her.” His motto– mirroring the slaughter at Fort Pillow– is TAKE NO PRISONERS, and he is determined to kill every Confederate he encounters.

His vow, along with his anger and obsession, carry him viciously through the war until one day when he meets a young wannabe Confederate boy with barely any peach fuzz on his face. Raz’s (played by Daniel Frometa) youthful innocence and desperate poverty reminds Bronson a little too much of himself, despite his race and politics. The two share a powerful moment that will be sure not to leave a dry eye in the house.

 

A Civil War Christmas by Paula Vogel runs Dec 14, 15, & 16 at First Baptist Church of Downey at 7pm. 8348 E. Third St., Downey, Ca 90240. Tickets are free. Visit www.fbcdowney.org or www.downeyarts.org or call (562) 923-1261.

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Civil War Spotlight: Elizabeth Keckley

18 November 2012

One of our leading roles in A Civil War Christmas is a name you might not remember from the history books. Nonetheless, Elizabeth Keckley was an emblematic representative of the arduous road to freedom traveled by numerous black Americans prior to emancipation. Played by Downey Arts Coalition member Aimee Calligari, you will be moved by the quite, strong grace of both the actress and character.

Born into slavery, Keckley was a strong, motivated woman. She said in her autobiography that when she was beaten as a young girl, she resisted her master and refused to cry or yell during the beating. Her master was eventually moved to tears by her fortitude, begged her forgiveness, and swore never to beat her again. Later, she was raped by a white man in the community and bore a son. Keckley named him George after her stepfather. Later in life, George joined the Union army and sadly died in the first battle he fought.

Keckley learned to sew at a young age and by her teenage years was adept at dressmaking. She spent most of her hours practicing this trade as a slave and hired woman. Playwright Paula Vogel often has her speaking of “putting her hands to use.” This skill became very useful to her, as it kept her from doing more laborious slave duties, built herself goodwill among important women, and eventually she used her earnings to buy her own freedom, and that of her young son.

She and her son later moved to Washington DC where she built a profitable business making dresses for the most elite patronage. Her career culminated when she became the seamstress to none other than Mary Todd Lincoln, the First Lady of the United States.

It was not only her career that soared, but also her personal life. She and Mrs. Lincoln became fast friends and remained so for most of their lives. Keckley was known to be the only woman who could handle Mrs. Lincoln’s erratic moods. She was a confidante to her and the whole family.

It is exciting to feature this important woman in African-American history in our play. She was a pioneer for her race and her gender, breaking down every barrier known to her. She is remembered for her grace and fortitude, meekness and strength, and her ability to answer tragedy and hardship with courage and endurance. Be sure to catch this incredible portrayal, and see how she “puts her hands to use.”

 

A Civil War Christmas by Paula Vogel runs Dec 14, 15, & 16 at First Baptist Church of Downey at 7pm. 8348 E. Third St., Downey, Ca 90240. Tickets are free. Visit www.fbcdowney.org or call (562) 923-1261.

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Civil War Spotlight: Mary Surratt

12 November 2012

One of my favorite characters in A Civil War Christmas is the small role of Mary Surratt. She only appears in one scene in our play, but she was a major player in the real-life theatre of the American Civil War. Mary Surratt owned the boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and his buddies (one of whom was Surratt’s son John) were known to have plotted to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. An ardent confederate sympathizer, her role in the conspiracy is still debated today. This  controversy is amplified with tragedy, as she was found guilty of conspiracy in a trial that many considered hasty and extremely biased, and then later became the first woman executed by the United States government. She was hanged alongside three others found guilty of conspiracy, including Lewis Payne, who also appears in our play. Her son, John Surratt Jr., was out of the country during this time, and upon his return was tried and acquitted of the same charge.

Played in our production by the lovely Lynn Hauer, Mary Surratt is depicted as a passionate and loving mother. We are not alone in this interpretation– in Robert Redford’s 2011 film The Conspirator, Surratt puts her life on the line when she conceals her son’s wrongdoings and whereabouts during her trial. Playwright Paula Vogel draws a clear comparison between our two southern belles– Mary Surratt and Mary Todd Lincoln, pointing out that both women grieve deeply the losses in their hometowns.

In our own moment in American history, many mothers are also grieving. We too have lost many to the horrors of war, and too many mothers and wives have been handed sorrow in the form of a folded up flag.

As we remember our veterans tomorrow for Veteran’s Day, remember also these women. Mothers and wives, and all the loved ones of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. They also serve and our freedom is carried in their grief.

 

A Civil War Christmas by Paula Vogel runs Dec 14, 15, & 16 at First Baptist Church of Downey at 7pm. 8348 E. Third St., Downey, Ca 90240. Tickets are free. Visit www.fbcdowney.org or call (562) 923-1261.

 

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Two Years

9 November 2012

Yesterday my little boy turned two.

Two Years.  That is how long my baby has been in my life. Feels like a moment, yet the time before we knew him seems to be as if it were another lifetime. How someone who makes the world so rich, so meaningful, so warm and wonderful could have simply not existed two years ago boggles the mind.

Two years ago he was just a tiny mewing infant, small enough to be held in one arm, yet fragile enough never to do so. He spent his days mostly eating and sleeping and eating and sleeping. The boy we know now is so different. He roams through the wide world with eyes wide open, taking in and investigating every possible adventure or fascination. Things we take for granted, or don’t have the interest in studying, Leif brings to our attention with wild amazement, reminding us daily that the world is truly a place full of wonders.  He is patient enough to give his attention to one project at a time for long stretches. He is curious enough to repeat everything he hears with remarkable precision, putting together sentences that seem far too complex for such a young mind. He observes how others play and have fun, and is quick to join in with his own version, never doubting the activity to be any less than thrilling.

It’s hard to believe it has been two years since my homebirth. My Perfect Birth. I remember so vividly the first time I laid eyes on this beautiful child, and I will never forget the peaceful and powerful way he graced us with his grand entrance. The grace and peace that I was given that day will be a lesson I will never forget. I am so lucky that despite all our struggles, he still craves his mommy’s breast and that I get the privilege of staring into his beautiful eyes as he fills his tummy with sweet milk.

Yet often as I watch him lying in bed sleeping, I get a strong sense that he is rapidly growing from a baby into a boy. My heart is overwhelmed with pride and sadness. But with each tear that is shed in mourning over the loss of his babyhood, my heart is doubly filled with elation over the person he is becoming. It is a privilege to watch him grow, to bear witness to his life and development, but the greatest honor is that I am blessed to nurture him through it.

Last week, I was embaressingly clumsy and took a pretty bad dive as I tripped over a toy in our playroom. Both boys saw it, and as I lay on the ground in pain I watched them rush over to me in fear. Leif reached my head first and I saw the fear in his eyes as he yelled “Mommy!” and looked down at me, tears welling in the eyes and heavy breaths waiting to be released. I was fine, but it was so humbling to experience for a moment the depth of his love for me. How I ever deserved such love I have no clue. But I am thankful, and pray that I will be a good mother to him throughout the years to come.

So here’s to many more happy years! However fast they come, I promise to relish every moment, always thankful that I am your mother.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake

6 October 2012

20121006-161752.jpg

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Finding Downey’s Voice

17 August 2012

I stumbled upon A Civil War Christmas by Paula Vogel one year ago. I shared it with our Christmas show production team at First Baptist Church of Downey, and we all immediately fell in love with its themes of forgiveness, loving one’s enemies, unity, and race relations. We immediately applied for the rights and waited. Meanwhile, a few significant stumbling blocks at the church made it clear that producing this show would be impossible this year. In hindsight, this was a godsend, as I was still working on my MA thesis and needed the fall months to complete it. God knows what He is doing.

During the last year and a half, my husband and I have been running the Downey Arts Coalition, a collective of artists, activists, and arts & culture lovers. Our activity with the DAC has been a tremendous introduction to a city we’ve known our whole lives. We have been involved more actively in the community than ever before, and we have been privileged to not only meet many wonderful new friends, but also to admire the collective diversity and unity that is unique to the Downey community. I must admit– now more than ever– I love my city. This community is quite special.

Local communities are the building blocks of this country, but if you look at our nation as a whole, we are divided. We are polarized. We avoid those whose ideas and opinions differ from ours. We demonize the other side. Even Christian brothers and sisters divide themselves along ethnic, denominational, and political lines.

Downey, this is not who we are! And for Christians, it is certainly not how the Bible calls us to live. We ought to remember our commonalities, rejoice in the fundamentals of our faith and values, and love one another. Even if there are enemies, Jesus admonished us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

It is these principals and themes that ring out strong in A Civil War Christmas. This is a play that follows several different story lines and tells the tales of many important individuals in and around Washington DC, 1864.

There is Bronson, the Black Union Soldier who worked his way up to Sergeant but carries a grudge like a heavy burden. His motto, “take no prisoners,” gets challenged by the very words of Jesus on stage.

Then there is Elizabeth Keckley, a strong and determined former slave who bought her own freedom from the money she earned as a seamstress. But she also carries a heavy burden– her only son was killed in battle and she feels his death is her punishment for teaching him the hate she harbored in her heart.

Then there is Raz, the young confederate boy eager to fight and win a battle everyone says is lost. In the end, he will be shown a grace greater than any sin.

Mary Surratt is a passionate confederate sympathizer who owns the boarding house where conspirators meet to plot the assassination of President Lincoln. But when she accidentally runs into Mary Todd Lincoln on the street, she bonds with her as one mother to another, and together they mourn the losses their hometowns have suffered in the war.

And then there is Chester Manton Saunders, who was brought up in a devout Quaker home. Catching on to his mother’s strong Christian faith, he believes ardently in the abolitionist cause and the “divine spark in every man.” His faith will not allow him to fight in the war, but he joins the army anyway, serving under Decatur Bronson, and helping the unit out in any non-combat way he possibly can. When he realizes Bronson is about to commit murder, he knows time will allow no better intervention than prayer, and his mother’s faith urges him to call upon the Father. The answer to his prayer will astound you.

Our congregation cannot support the demanding ensemble this play requires. So, out of necessity and perhaps divine intervention, we feel compelled to reach out to our sister church in Lynwood in partnership. This is the part that really excites me. Because this play is all about unity, brotherhood, and Christians coming together during turbulent times to work toward a common good. And so with this partnership we attempt to do just that. If this succeeds, we will be bringing the lofty ideas off the stage and into real life. This partnership is an opportunity for our congregations to come together in unity and brotherhood and abolish the differences that would divide us. What would usually just be figurative, only represented on stage, we wish to make literal, and practice in real life.

We always say that FBCD’s Christmas show is a gift to the community. Well, this year will be a gift like no other. I have directed the FBCD Christmas show several times now and I always do it because I want to serve my church and serve the Lord. (And because it’s fun.) But this year, I have new eyes.  I truly want to do something special in this community and I believe in the strong message of this play. I have always believed that FBCD is a special sub-culture within Downey and I believe we as a church are well-suited to be giving this gift at this time. This play will meet us where we are as individuals, as a community, and as a nation.

Oh, and did I mention that we are currently remembering the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the 20th anniversary of the LA Riots?

I hope that the whole congregation at FBCD will rally around this play, so that it will truly be a gift from the whole church, and not just a few members. There are still some auditions left, so if that is your interest please come audition or talk to David about singing in the choir. If not, there are many other opportunities to serve such as set/props construction and coordination, stage management, costume coordination, stage hands, PR, Tech Team, and by telling others in the community and bringing a group to attend the performance. As usual, all performances are free. Theatre is not an art of isolation. We are moving a mountain here, and it’s going to take an army.

This play has something to say, and I want to help it find its voice in Downey. Will you join me?

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Random Updatedness

12 August 2012

I guess it’s time for another update. It’s been a busy summer and we have many exciting things happening. Let’s see, I think I’ll work backwards…

We are looking forward to celebrating the weddings of some very important people in our life. Our dear friend Scarlet is marrying Andy’s best buddy since childhood, Geoff, next weekend. We couldn’t be more thrilled about this marriage and all the festivities this week. Andrew’s brother Tom is also getting married the same weekend in a small ceremony in Santa Barbara and we are so thrilled to have Tanya joining our family.

I am in the beginning stages of directing A Civil War Christmas, a play by  Paula Vogel at FBCD. Every stage in this process has proven itself a challenge and we expect it to continue this way. Our fears that the whole thing could fall apart at any moment are real, but we plug along with God’s guidance, waiting on Him to pull this whole thing together. If it does come together, it will be a really incredible show. I am very excited to direct it. And intimidated. I know this will be a great gift to our community.

This week I was honored to be featured at our local concert in the park with the Downey Symphony Orchestra as a narrator on one song. This was a great privilege for me and a wonderful PR opportunity for Downey Arts Coalition. We had a booth at the event and conducted a raffle to benefit the Symphony.

Art on the Vine, our monthly art series with Downey Arts Coalition, celebrated its first anniversary last weekend. This was our first endeavor and has by far been our shining star. So proud that this has come out of our organization. In other art news around Downey, we look forward to the opening of the Stay Gallery, a real-deal art gallery to be located in the heart of downtown Downey, and operated by our sister organization, the Downey Art Vibe. DAC will be coordinating the performance-related stuff that gets programmed into the space.

PJ is now 5 years old and Cakers is 21 months. They have had a lot of fun this summer going on playdates, field trips, and spending once a week with “Teacher Amy” at playgroup (just PJ of course). A new opportunity for PJ has come up that we are going to try. Our friends are starting a homeschool co-op and we signed him up. So he will be attending Discovery of Learning Homeschool Center twice a week in the fall. The drive is a little far for us, so we are keeping an open mind about it. But many of his friends are attending and I know he will really grow.

Speaking of homeschooling, now that he’s 5 and obviously a “big boy,” I’m finding a lot of strangers always asking him if he goes to school, or if he will be going in the fall. I find this question very annoying. I told him he can tell people that he’s homeschooled, but he doesn’t usually say that. He usually gives them a more detailed response. He is wonderful.

He has grown into an incredible personality. He is by far the friendliness person I’ve ever known. He talks to so many people while we are out and about, and loves to give them random information about his life or thoughts. Today as we were crossing the parking lot at Trader Joe’s he yelled hello to a couple he saw across the way and was sure to tell them that we are going on vacation to the mountains and that we were going into TJ’s to get some snacks. Like most people, they were very entertained by him.

Cakers is equally as delightful. He seems to have an endless vocabulary, acquired mostly by mimicry. He puts two words together and seems to understand everything we say. He is such a little darling. He now plays like a big boy and relishes every moment of life. Babywearing has been reduced to its most practical essentials, such as longer walks trough shopping centers and trips to the market. Gone are the days when I would wear a precious and tiny sleeping baby while trying to prepare a meal. That was a difficult thing to multi-task and I am thankful for the relative amount of peace I get while the two of them play together during my meal prep time (I actually started listening to NPR again while I cook! amazing!), but I am acutely aware of what I have lost. Bittersweet. I am pleased to still be breastfeeding him, and hope he continues for many years to come.

Andrew still works for Local Hero Post in Santa Monica. The commute is tough, but the job is good. The company seems to always be growing in demand and in reputation. We keep hoping this will one day make life easier. Hasn’t happened yet… He injured his leg pretty badly playing with the kids on Father’s Day. It’s been a struggle, but he found a doctor that he really likes and is now in physical therapy.

Aside from CWC, we are also trying to plan a season of theatre at the new gallery. One-acts, mostly original stuff. I would direct hopefully one of them, and other of our theatrically-inclined DAC members would take the others. More on that as things develop. I would someday like to get a job again. This is probably not a good time for us, but we remain interested. I’m also being mentored right now toward leadership in La Leche League International. That process has been slow because of all I’ve got going on in my life. But accreditation as a leader will be a meaningful contribution I can make in people’s lives for years to come and I am enjoying every step of the journey.

That’s all for now! Sorry there’s no pictures!

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