No Room in the Inn…

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 (KJV)

We have an advantage over Mary and Joseph. We read about their exclusion from the Inn and gloss over it as a just another sentence in the story of the birth of Jesus. But I think about it now, and I feel for them. How in the moment, what a terrifying prospect that had to be for them both.

While I don’t have the experience of childbirth, I think how mortified we would be if our families sweet Katelyn had to be born in a parking garage because the hospital was just too full to take on another patient on the night my cousin Lauren went in to have her.

We know, with the benefit of hindsight, that His birth in a stable was the fulfillment of prophecy, that it had to happen this way, that it was always meant to happen this way. But Mary and Joseph didn’t. If they did, they never would have asked for lodging in the first place. They would have gone straight to the stable, because they would have known this was God’s plan all along.

Bearing that in mind, I think of situations I go through today. How life sometimes seems so unfair,  or ‘first world’ difficult. How much easier would it be if I could just head straight for the stable and skip asking for the lodging because I know this is part of the plan.

But I don’t know. I then realize that because I’m in the middle of living my story, I don’t know how it turns out. How the blessings, difficulties and trials were/are exactly what was/is supposed to happen, because it was/is all part of the plan. I’m not at the end of my life, but I know the One who is.

This Christmas, I’m realizing that I don’t have all the answers, that I’ll never have all the answers, and that’s okay. That this is what God meant when he said, “sufficient for the day is it’s own troubles.” (Matthew 6:34)

If there’s no room in your Inn, fear not. This could all be part of the plan. Your story is far from over. 

For the love of Art

Bad things happen. Hate, greed, violence, and pain have existed since our exit from the Garden of Eden. There is nothing new under the sun, so hate, greed, violence, and pain will go on existing until we all shuffle off this mortal coil.

What can be done about it? What do we do when things seem at their very lowest point? When we can’t imagine something more awful happening than the thing that happened yesterday? Or today? Or even tomorrow? How can we combat all the darkness?

Love. Joy. Peace. Forgiveness.

How can we achieve these feelings? These qualities? One way is through art. That sounds ridiculous. Legislation! New rules! More restrictions! Shouting! That’s what we need to create love, joy, peace, and forgiveness!

Perhaps. I’ll leave that up to those who feel called to that line of change. I wish them well. In the meantime, while they do the work they’ve been called to do, I’ll do mine.  I will combat the darkness by creating art.

What qualifies as art? The actual definition is, “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”

Art is painting. Art is film. Art is dance. Art is theatre. Art is whatever we need it to be that stirs our emotions, stimulates our minds, and soothes our spirits. (Or challenges them).

During the Great Depression, all businesses suffered, but the one business that still brought in crowds was the movies. People wanted to escape their circumstances, and for two hours, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and many others were their ticket to another world. A world where there wasn’t any hate, greed, violence, or pain.

Our theatre has a show that opens tomorrow. Come see it. Not because the volunteer actors have spent countless hours rehearsing and refining the material. Not because it’s been a joy to produce. Not because these actors are some of the kindest people ever assembled in one place. Actually, not for any reason related to the actual formation of the show.

Come because for two short, simple hours, it will take you away from the darkness that gathers outside. Inside our four walls, there is sunshine, and there is pure joy. Our actors portray real characters with real problems, so there is conflict, but it is resolved. We know everything will turn out all right for them; and knowing that, we have a bit of hope for ourselves. And we need that right now. We need that every day.

We are fortunate to have many community theatres in our area, and all are producing the best quality art they know how. Support them. Support art in all forms because it’s only when we stop filling the seats, when we give up on any hope of love, joy, peace, and forgiveness that the darkness truly begins to win.

——————–

“Corney County Christmas Talent and Variety Show Fundraiser”

December 4 @ 7:30
December 5 @ 7:30
December 6 @ 3:00 AND 7:00

More information, including directions and tickets at:  www.TheTheatreDownstream.com

 

A Permanent Perfect View


My Aunt Barb, otherwise known as our fearless leader, has left us much sooner than anticipated, and we, her minions (as she liked to call us) are a bit at a loss. She was supposed to be here for many, many more years, and then a bad headache and several doctors appointments in July told us those years would be six months, and then Monday, those remaining months evaporated into the mist of time.


It doesn’t feel fair. I keep saying, “Wait. Hold on. This isn’t real. I’m going to call her and she’s going to talk about the premiere of “Castle” last night and how good it was, or when our next trip is going to be.” But I’m not. I can’t.

We were going to record her reading a bedtime story to her fifteen month old granddaughter (and lookalike) so she’d know the sound of her voice. I had plans to ask her what her favorite memory from our trips were, from her life. To interview her and give her the chance to leave her story behind. But I’m not. I can’t.

BJ KatelynShe loved reading mystery novels, especially Agatha Christie. She was also our family’s greatest mystery and complexity. She had Doris Day hair, but loved Britney Spears music. She adored sparkly accessories, but wore ballet flats, white pants, a button up shirt, long necklace, and a blazer (in the colder months) nearly every day of her life.

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She loved to socialize and talk, but didn’t like meeting new people. She loved walking, but only in the right temperature. Her humor was dry and her tongue razor sharp. She could be incredibly generous, or incredibly stubborn. She drank gallons of water to be healthy, but loved to smoke.


In short, she liked things the way she liked them. Her pastime of choice was shopping with her daughter, Lauren, and their Black Friday sprees were the organized thing legends are made of.

After my Uncle’s passing, I became her travel companion, and we took dozens of trips to the Jersey Shore. Last year, on this very day, actually, we were expanding our horizons and exploring Biloxi, MS. Her favorite amenity was a hotel room with an ocean view so she could sit there in the morning, drink her hot tea, and admire the scenery. Pity the hotel concierge who denied her that luxury. 😉

Her nails were always long and painted, and her favorite descriptive term was “fabulous.”

BJ cokes
She planned everything, and everything had it’s place. She was Poirot, she was Felix Unger, she was Monk (without the crimesolving). And she was a great big dose of Ousier with a splash of the charming Miss Clairee. She had an opinion on just about everything, and you would, and could, be treated to it at any moment.

She loved flowers, and she loved photography, especially photos of her flowers and her family. After our grandmother, she was our historian, the one who documented trips and the one most often behind the camera. She gave me tips on how to make my photos look more interesting, and she even encouraged my strange hobby of ‘stock photography,’ and bragged about it when we went out on trips.

When a tragedy like a death in the family occurred, she took charge. She was the one to arrange buying the flowers, getting the card, telling us where and what we should do.   Now we have to make the decisions, and with no one to take charge, we’re all adrift. We keep turning around, waiting for her to tell us what to do, and she’s not. She can’t.

She used to bemoan that she wasn’t really someone who had accomplished much, or was worth remembering. I wouldn’t want to be the one to disagree with her normally, but I will now. She was wrong.  We loved her. She was ours. All of her, the good and the bad. She was the kind of person that belongs in one of the novels she loved to read, not real life.
Maybe one day, she will be. She’s the kind of character that is a writer’s dream.

So tonight, I’d like to write her exit scene. Tonight, I like to think she’s in heaven, with a spotless mansion perched high above a long, sandy beach, a cup of hot tea steaming in front of her, and a permanent perfect view of the ocean.

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For Hannah, on her 18th Birthday

There is almost no real way I can put into words what I feel today, but I’ll give it a try. I can hardly believe it has actually been eight whole years since you appeared in our lives, a mere whisper of a girl. Your easy smile and sweet, (but incredibly sassy spirit) captured our hearts and we quickly adopted you as our own.

When we created a Christmas play and needed a child actor, you were the first person we thought of; not only did you have talent, we genuinely enjoyed having you in our company. Your infectious giggle, and eagerness to be with ‘the big kids’ was endearing, and your work ethic (at such a young age!) was remarkable.

When we decided to jump off this crazy peak of insanity called filmmaking, again, you were one of the first ones we called. You had more than proven yourself on stage, and we wanted you to be a part of this process, however far it would stretch us.

And stretch us it did! We learned, we cried (a lot) and we experienced so many things. You saved the film on the very first day by catching the camera before it was knocked over by a gust of errant wind. You would go on to save more than just the camera as the months, and years, progressed.

On the second film, you saved my personal sanity. You were there, every filming day, helping me load the car, talking me through my lines, picking out my costumes, helping me choose my hairstyles, and sitting up with me til 1am, reviewing footage and making notes for the next day, when, at 7am, we would do it all over again.

During shooting, I was perpetually on the cusp of a nervous breakdown, and you talked me down from more metaphorical ledges than you should ever, at your young age, have heard of. You held my hand, and told me it would all work out.

I remember looking in on you one night when you had finally collapsed in the guest bedroom, and you were sound asleep, holding your teddy bear (Sadie?). Seeing that nearly destroyed me with how precious you looked. I knew that this moment was fleeting, and that before I knew it, you would be a grown woman, too old for teddy bears, and crazy pseudo-adopted sisters.

And today, here we are.

Today you are everything I wanted you to be and never was at this age. Beautiful, accomplished, confident, brilliant, and with the world at your feet. You will never, ever be less than a champion in my eyes, and I can say with utter honesty, I could not imagine my life without you.

So forgive me if, sometime in the future, I look at you and get a little emotional.  You see, I will still see traces of that little girl, hugging her teddy bear, smiling up at me with that infectious grin, and giggling.

I love you, and wish you the happiest of birthdays.

Happy Birthday, Nancye!!

Today I would like to take a moment to wish one of my faithful readers (and one of my favorite people!) a very Happy Birthday.

Nancye is the true definition of the word “Lady.” She is constantly teaching me new and important things. Things such as the proper way to set a table, how to dress, the value of tea parties, fresh cut flowers, nail polish, universal kindness, and trying something new. She loves her Ipad and my Mom is hoping to convince her to try riding a bike this summer!

When she answers the phone, she makes you feel as though she is delighted to hear from you, and only you. She also teaches me that there truly is no age limit on friendship. She is warm, kind, compassionate, strong, and beautiful.

I won’t reveal her age, for she also taught me a lady never tells such a thing, but I’d like to say how much I love her and hope she is having a wonderful day!

Surviving Godzilla (aka Food Poisoning)

Godzilla is attacking the city, and your body is his stomping grounds.

(Warning: This could be construed as graphic/gross by some. Proceed with caution)

Phase One: A general feeling of unease. 

When Godzilla decides he’s going to attack a city, he doesn’t usually call up the person in charge and say, “Hey…yeah…I’m gonna be there in about six hours, sooooo…..do what you gotta do.”

See you soon!!

“See you soon!! LOL”

In much the same way, when food poisoning first begins to enter and lurk around your system, it doesn’t give you any real warning other than a feeling of unease. Not impending doom, not yet. Just ‘different.’ According to my research, the gestation period can be anywhere from two hours to 90 days, so sometimes, there is no real concrete way to tell when or where it first breaks in. But once it’s in, you’re doomed for a roller coaster ride straight to the bowels of hell. Emphasis on bowels.

Wednesday after lunch, my pants (which normally fit fine) were constricting. I felt as though my skin was being stretched to capacity, as if I needed to break outside of my own body. I also had an intense desire to lay down. If only I could rest, things would be so much better. A few closely timed bathroom trips later,  I knew I needed to leave work early. My Mom was worried I wouldn’t make it home, but I assured her that home was only 18 minutes away and surely I could make that distance with no problems.

Phase Two: The initial attack

I didn’t make it.

I left a voicemail!

“But I left a voicemail!”

About halfway home (and no bathroom for miles) I felt like my body was being enveloped in light. I started to see white and I knew I was going to faint. I couldn’t drive any further without being a danger to myself or other cars. I could feel the wave rising in my body fighting to take over. Godzilla was here.

I uttered an expletive (just being honest) and jerked the car into the nearest turnabout I saw. I opened the door and unbuckled my seat belt in one motion. In the next second, I was vomiting everything I’d eaten in the past week. One leg was hanging out of the car along with one hand bracing on the gravel. As the goop drained toward it, I moved my thumb out of the way and looked at the contents. “I don’t remember eating potatoes with skin on them” I thought before I another wave hit me and I added to the collection.

After I knew I was done, I pulled my hair back, and informed my Mom of my whereabouts. I felt ten times better, and showered immediately upon arriving home. A good nap and I’d be back to normal.

Phase Three: This means WAR.

Continue reading

Sometimes, “It’s Complicated” to describe feelings.

It’s been a week and one day and I’m still at a semi-loss for words.

Our play, “It’s Complicated” has been put to bed and we’re already discussing our next venture. I have to admit, there was a lot going against us for this particular play. The weather wrecked havoc with our rehearsal schedule and we had to postpone the show by one week, which put the new performance days right smack in the middle of the opening of March Madness. In Kentucky.

Due to limited availability, we could only use the facility for one weekend, so there wouldn’t be a word of mouth buzz to boost our second weekend of attendance.

The Board also set a goal of increasing membership, and as an incentive to join at a higher level, Rachael and I offered signed copies of our book. But we only signed 10, which we felt was probably aiming high. I left some extras in my car and laughed at myself for doing so.

Finally, the show wasn’t ‘well-known’ material, in that it was original content, the bulk of which was written by me. Early on, one of the cast members asked me how it felt seeing my work performed, and I answered truthfully that it didn’t feel like my work. It was all very surreal.

While I have had plays or sketches performed before, I always have one ear open, waiting for the cast to say, “Oh wait. Nevermind. This isn’t a real play.” The fact that they all just accepted my words and acted like I knew what I was doing was too humbling. I told myself that maybe the cast might have enjoyed it, but that didn’t mean it would bring in people. For one weekend only, during March Madness. In Kentucky.

My expectations were shamefully low. To top it all off, I still get crippling stage fright. I’m absolutely certain that I’m going to forget every single line, and I become hyper aware that I am on stage, in front of a group of people saying words, and oh no wait….what are those words supposed to BE??? HELP HELP HELP.

It takes me halfway through the play to settle down and ease into the role. I took two photos opening night before I left for the theatre. The first, showing what my ‘outside’ looks like. The second, my ‘real’ inside.

Ashley OUtsideAshley inside

But then, performance weekend happened, and every expectation was shattered to bits. I had every intention of signing on closing night and gushing about all my feels. But when I sat down to say things, nothing would come because I couldn’t put into words all the feels that I felt.

Three Local churches donated snacks to keep us energized. I cannot emphasize enough how amazing it is for actors to have food waiting for us at the end of a show (or before, depending on the butterflies in our stomachs!!)  Our deepest thanks to Campbellsburg Baptist, Smithfield Baptist and Campbellsburg United Methodist.

We were thrilled beyond belief when on Friday night we jetted past our previous attendance record with 101 people in the audience. We thought we’d reached the pinnacle, but on Sunday 103 people came and we all nearly fainted with delight, myself more than anyone else.

Our two board members (and cast members) Angela and Kevin had a private goal in mind for new memberships, and not only did they reach that goal, they doubled it, in one day, during one intermission, which lasted about 15 minutes. I’ve never in my life seen two people raise so much money in such a brief period of time. It was astounding. We were all a bit dumbfounded. I went through sixteen books.

Finally, people actually seemed to love the show. They loved the content, they loved the writing, they loved the acting…we were showered with so much love it was overwhelming. Too overwhelming.

So here I sit, one week and one day later, still overwhelmed. Still unable to say thank you enough times. To the cast for wholeheartedly believing in my words, and to the crowds for showing up, signing up and standing up at the end of our shows.

Mid-way through the run, before the second day of breaking 100 people, I looked around at the cast and crew. While audiences were large, and money was coming in, that doesn’t always mean the show is a complete success. I only consider it a full and perfect success if, at the end of the show, the cast and crew are still happy they signed on for this endeavor.

So, I looked around. I saw their happiness, their smiling faces, their joy of performing and being together, and I thought, “We did it. This. This is really what success looks like.”

🙂

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