another stage mother...

first let me do some explaining about the photo featured before this post.... that is a bridge in this little isolated park in our neighborhood. why they built this crackalacka fancy bridge in this one little area of our neighborhood where NOBODY ever goes is beyond me. but millie has decided that her mission in life is to decorate this bridge with yarn. it is called yarn bombing. according to wickipedia most yarn bombing is done with knitted or crocheted items covering other items. but i am sure millie’s work still qualifies. isn’t it kind of me to keep all of you so current with the latest of trends? thank me later. with gift cards to starbucks.... or comments... whatever.

in celebration of mother’s day weekend, i will now present to you the second stage mother that i wish to emulate...

marmee from little women, the musical. which i know is kind of cheating because she really is first and foremost a literary character. who just happened to make a run on broadway for too short a lease. little women, the musical ran only 5 months on broadway. which surprised me because the irresistible sutton foster was starring in it (after her thoroughly modern millie blockbuster role.) and the really sad part is that i never saw it on broadway (or anywhere else.) but i LOVE some of the songs from the show...

this song in particular (the showstopper before the intermission) is quite astonishing. and that isn’t just because it is the song called astonishing. it is because sutton foster can flat out SING. if you are short on time, skip ahead to 5 minutes into the song. and be astonished. and pretend that i am singing that song. hope you have a VIVID imagination.

my favorite song in the musical is the one that marmee sings after beth has died (whoops, spoiler. but please tell me you already knew that because everyone should have read the book. right?) the song is called days of plenty. and it always reminds me of my mother and my grandmother. that i am a part of their story. that i carry on their story...

You have to Believe,
There is reason for Hope.
You have to Believe
That the answers will come.
You can't let this defeat you.
I won't less this defeat you.
You must fight to keep her there,
Within you
So Believe that she matters
And Believe that she always will
She will always be with you
She'll be part of the days you've yet to feel
She will live in your bounty
She will live as you carry on your life
So carry on,
Full of Hope,
She'll be there,
For all your Days of Plenty

i saw this quote on twitter this weekend. 

and it reminded me of marmee. 

and i hope that one day it reminds my children of me...

a mother is someone who loves 
and cares for you 
and tells you stories.  
said by wendy in peter pan

one of the concepts that donald miller talks about with his books (and his life) is the concept of story. living a good story. God is the ultimate Author and Storyteller. Jesus told stories. the Bible tells us stories (true stories that are more exciting than most television shows and movies.) God knows how to tell a story (even greater than sutton foster knowing how to sing a blockbuster.) He has written this idea of story into our very dna. we yearn for stories. that is why we read, watch tv, and movies. if we aren’t living a good story... we have to be watching one. 

here are a couple of quotes from donald millier’s book about editing his life, a million miles in a thousand years... really i should just print the whole book for you here. i am such a fan.

But nobody really remembers easy stories. Characters have to face their greatest fears with courage. That’s what makes a story good. If you think about the stories you like most, they probably have lost of conflict. There is probably death at stake, inner death or actual death. These polar charges, these happy and sad things in life, are like colors God uses to draw the world.
I’ve wondered if one of the reason we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life (and the existence of God as the Author) is because we don’t want to responsibility inherent in that acknowledgement. We don’t want to be characters in His story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn’t remarkable, then we don’t have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants.
But I’ve noticed something. I’ve never walked out on a meaningless movie thinking ALL movies are meaningless. I only thought the movie I walked our on was meaningless. I wonder, then, if when people say life is meaningless, what they really mean is THEIR lives are meaningless. I wonder if they’ve chosen to believe their whole existence is unremarkable, and are projecting their dreary life on the rest of us. 
We were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the ting we were meant to live through was designed to change us. The point of a story is the character arc, the change.... But a general rule in creating stories is that characters don’t want to change. They must be forced to change. Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better.  
I think there is a force in the world that doesn’t want us to live good stories. It doesn’t want us to face our fear and bring something beautiful into the world. I believe that God wants us to create beautiful stories, and whatever it is that isn’t God wants us to create meaningless stories, teaching the people around us that life isn’t worth living. 
i don’t know why there are dark forces in the world, but there are. And i don’t know why God allows dark forces to enter into our stories, but He does.  (Perhaps it is so He can show us) This (suffering and evil, terrible atrocities and horrors) is what happens when people walk away from me. This is what happens when My compassion and love leave a place. When people do not allow God to show up through them, the world collapses in on itself. 
(In Lima, Peru to get to the ancient religious site of Machu Picchu, you can hike along a 6 hour easy pathway along the river, you can take a short bus ride, you can take an easy train ride and then hike just one mile to the Sun Gate. Or you can travel the way the ancients traveled. It is a 4 day hike over the mountains. Up stairs for hours, hiking in the South American sun for days.) Why would the Incas make people take the long route? Because the emperor knew that the more painful the journey to Machu Picchu, the more the traveler would appreciate the city, once he got there.
(The people who get there the easy way don’t experience the city as those who took the treacherous journey.) The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters than we would have been if we had skipped the story and showed  up at the ending a different way. It made me think about the hard lives so many people had seen, the sacrifices they’ve endured, and how those people will see heaven differently from those of us who have had easier lives. 
You didn’t think joy could change a person, did you? Joy is what you feel when the conflict is over. But it is conflict that changes a person. You put your character through hell. You put them through hell. That’s the only way to change. 
Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychologist was in a Nazi concentration camp. He was separated from his wife and lost his parents in the ghetto, yet he still worked to prevent suicided among his fellow prisoners. Interfering with suicides was prohibited by Nazi guards, but Frankl whispered in people’s ears all the same. The essence of his whispers were that life, even amid the absurdity of human suffering, still had meaning. Suffering, as absurd as it seemed, pointed to a greater story in which, if one would only construe himself as a character within, he could find fulfillment in his tragic role, knowing the plot was heading toward redemption. 
Contrary to Freud’s posit that man’s greatest pursuit is that of pleasure, Frankl argued life is a pursuit of meaning itself, and that search for meaning provides the basis for a person’s motivation. Pain then, if one could have faith in something greater than himself, might be a path to experiencing a meaning beyond the false gratification of personal comfort.
Victor Frankl’s story said to me I was a tree in a story about a forest, and that it was arrogant of me to believe any different. And then he told me that story of the forest is better than the story of the tree. 
In addressing men in his concentration camp, Victor Frankl spoke of the need to move their thoughts beyond their own despondency, into direct action that affirmed a greater meaning in life. “"We had to learn ourselves, and furthermore we had to teach the despairing (ones), that it did not matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life but instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life, daily and hourly. Our answer must exist, not in talk and mediation, but in right action and right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets before each individual."
We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us that life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling then to speak a better story. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them.
Wilson Bentley, the man who coined the phrase “no two snowflakes are alike” was actually the man who discovered that no two snowflakes are alike. Bentley was a New England farmer who fell in love with the beauty and individuality of snowflakes. In his lifetime, he captured and painstakingly photographed more than five thousand crystals of snow. 
What amazed Bentley was the realization that each snowflake bore the scars of its journey. He discovered that each crystal is affected by the temperature of the sky, the altitude of the cloud from which it fell, the trajectory the wind took it as it fell to earth, and a thousand other factors. Snowflakes are beautiful because of their journey.

donald miller, a million miles in a thousand years (just go on and read the book so i don’t have to quote from it anymore)

c.s. lewis and j.r.r.tolkien knew about good stories...

Samwise Gamgee: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo; the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end... because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was, when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Then Aslan turned to them and said:
“You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”
Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”
“No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?”
Their hearts leaped and a wild horse rose within them.
“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly.
“Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead. The term is over: the holiday had begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
And as He spoke He no longer look to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
- C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

i hope that as a mother i am loving, and caring, and telling good stories. 

i will leave you with this one last clip from little women, the musical. jo is telling/singing a good story about pitching a story to a newspaper editor. this isn’t the broadway production but it is pretty good. i love how she tells this tale. talk about telling a good story...

sometimes when you dream
your dreams come true
in extraordinary ways
suddenly a day can be so amazing
and sometimes when you yearn
you burn the air
and someone else feels the flame
you always knew
was there...
{from the weekly volcano press in little women, the musical}

may my yearning burn the air so that someone else may feel the flame. what greater legacy could there be as a mother?

green with envy...

so i bet that you can guess today’s musical selection for marshall may musical mash up month (alliteration is key)...


i had read the book before we went to nyc and so had my friend jojo (the college girl that went with us for millie’s 10 trip.) but the wicked tickets were a birthday surprise for jojo (she had just had a birthday 2 days before millie’s.) this was before wicked was really popular (ha. those of you who know the musical just got that joke.) wicked was fairly new and still starring the original stars... kristin chenoweth and idina menzel. millie even met idina menzel after the show and idina sang happy birthday to her. yes, EARLY in the show’s run. before idina was a HUGE HIT. 

two years later when we went back to nyc for maxx’s 10 trip, he and adam went to see wicked. and maxx met the current actress playing elpheba. and took a photo. we didn’t go when rosie turned 10. in fact poor rosie has never seen wicked. i must remedy that soon. wicked is a GREAT musical for a teenage girl to see. all those songs about being popular. and what that leads to... 

one thing i loved about wicked was that it has a GREAT showstopper song right before the intermission. and i am not the only one who thinks so... tony sportiello wrote an article “anatomy of a musical show stopper: how wicked defines the perfect way to close your first act.” i love the way he takes you minute by minute through the showstopping song “defining gravity.” he pinned my every emotion hearing it the first time... (btw, in the clip from the tony awards idina menzel had just had a HUGE asthma attack minutes before she had to sing that showstopper. and she still sang 189,566,489 times better than i ever could.)

one thing i loved about wicked was that it followed a little musical principle that i wrote a paper on once in a class i took about musical theater (my dad said that i put the “liberal” in liberal arts with all the “classes” that i took in college.) i wrote about what i termed the “rolling stone principle” meaning “you can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.” i cited several musicals where characters sing in act 1 about something they really really want. and then they receive that thing in act 2 but it is never what they thought it would be and now it is something that they don’t want... see camelot, west side story, my fair lady. and wicked. 

later i would see this same principle illustrated succinctly and creatively in donald miller’s classic book (and now a movie) blue like jazz. he wrote a little comic story that could be made into a musical with just a few well placed songs... let me give a SPOILER to don’s story. and our own story of everything we want that isn’t God...

don rabbit (insert lea rabbit or your name here rabbit) wants sexy carrot (insert to be a broadway star, mother of the year, a perfect marriage, perfect house, to be the perfect everything, or whatever it is you are wanting today.)

and he chases it everywhere. in every way. through everything. he tries really really really hard. devotes his whole life to the pursuit of sexy carrot and finally he catches sexy carrot.

and the moral of the story is that if you work hard, stay focused, and never give up, you will eventually get what you want in life.

unfortunately, shortly after this story was told, don rabbit choked on the carrot and died. 

so the second moral of the story is:

sometimes the things we want most in life are the things that will kill us.

i think glenda, elphaba, guinevere, arthur, maria, tony and several more of our broadway friends would agree... and they would sing about it. sing really really well. and we would all come back for the second act. to see their happy endings. to see them figure it out. to see them mature and grow and change and learn. 

i spent a lot of time last night reading over my blog from the past year. there we so many entries where i couldn’t even recall what was making me so emotional at the time. but i can clearly remember how God spoke to me in each moment. i don’t remember what i wanted. but i know that every time i was given what i needed... the grace and mercy to go into the next day with a strength that wasn’t my own. all i had to bring was my weakness, my concerns, my failures, my freaking outness... and EVERY time He sent me a Word, a comfort, a person with a story of hope on the other end of the phone (like this girl, this friend, this new mommy, this former neighbor, this broadway loving friend and dozens of other people that i can’t link to except with a prayer of thanksgiving in my heart.) 

what are you chasing today? because if you aren’t chasing God then what are you chasing? what do you think you MUST HAVE TO BE HAPPY? well, i hate to tell you (mostly i hate to tell myself) that what you/i are/am chasing... it is the wind (well actually it isn’t me telling you or me that... it is king solomon. the wisest and richest guy who ever lived. a guy who chased some sexy rabbits of his own. he did have 700 wives and 300 concubines. that is some quality sexy carrot chasing.) know that whatever you/i chase that isn’t God... you/i won’t catch it. or if you/i do, it will blow your/my skirt up and your/my panties will show to the world. He set this up. He sets us up for failure when we chase sexy carrot. because He wants the best for us. because He loves us too much to let us settle for sexy carrot. stupid sexy carrot. because He knows that in life or in musicals whatever you sing about in act 1 won’t be what you actually need in act 2.

i just wrote about failure in a letter that i wrote to a high school graduate who had faced some failure this year. here are a few of the pithy words that i sent to him...

“the thing I love about God is He intentionally guides people into failure.” {bob goff}

sometimes i love that about God. and yet some day i just want to keep singing about all the things that i WANT. i hope that my songs from act 2 are heard louder (and sung better) than my sillyl “i want” songs from act 1...