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(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

Once upon a time I was a small-town girl living in a lonely world—well, while attempting to get my career started in the metropolitan area where I have since lived for over 31 years. I first came to Denver to study book publishing at the (University of) Denver Publishing Institute, returning a month later for good.

I didn’t find many openings in book publishing so I set out to information-interview the local publishing companies. After one such interview, my car (of the same vintage I was—young for human years, but old in car years) broke down at the side of the road—fortuitously by a gas station that still had working mechanics on site. The young mechanic got me back on the road (for free!) and I returned to the faraway suburb where I was staying with my mother’s friends during my initial job search.

Fast-forward (slow-forward?) almost 30 years and I answered a job post (through the Publishing Institute’s job listing) for the same company I visited right before the car’s roadside drama. Morton Publishing is still in the exact same location, although expanded, yet the people interviewing me were much younger than I was, including one I knew from yoga. I did not get that position but later that year Morton contacted me about doing freelance proofreading for them as they went through the busy preparations for the annual textbook releases. Completed two books for them in 2014 and four in 2015.

This loop in my life looks even more orchestrated when I think about how I met and married a man who owned a house less than a mile from Morton. I have lived and socialized and worked out in the same community as where the company is for almost 28 years. For 11 of those years I have attended the yoga class where I originally met someone who would eventually work at Morton because another student—who later joined our yoga class—worked at the company.

Over the years I’ve deviated from my original dream to work in book publishing. I began in magazine publishing, but fell into (and learned to like) numbers work there. I reasoned that I could do numbers work in a variety of industries, so I moved into a financial reporting business. At one time I was even an accountant—and, yet words kept calling me. I eventually wrote articles and compiled detailed charts for magazine articles. And then—through that yoga class—I connected with an author who needed an editor for two projects over many years.

And, now, I start a job as assistant editor at Morton in just over week. As my daughter pointed out, “It took you 31 years to get that job.” Right—while the company was growing, and while I was adding to my skills as well as raising a family.

Don’t stop believing.

(About the photo.)

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Yesterday I wrote about how my mind has seemed rather blank—that may be true, but my dreams are never lacking for details. Though I’m not sure the specifics matter as to what the dreams mean, I wonder if those detailed dreams keep me tired during my waking hours and get in the way of how well I can turn my waking dreams into reality.

Example of a typical Trina dream:

My yoga teacher is teaching a computer-related course at the Eagles’ club where we have our yoga classes, so instead of sitting on our mats, we are sitting at tables. Of course I bring my laptop, but for some reason my husband decides that he needs to repair my computer right there at the start of class. He has everything out of the machine on both sides—yes, do you know there are soft materials located between the monitor and the outer shell, just as there is inside the section where the motherboard should be. I finally point out to him that maybe this isn’t the right time for working on my computer since I am supposed to be using it. Then I begin trying to stuff the material back in both sides so I can snap everything back together—but, of course it won’t fit. Does this bug my husband? No, is conversing back and forth with my choir director, both of them speaking in English but with a Hogan’s Heroes’ type German accent. And then the man clearly asks my husband, “So do you just program in C or C++ too?”

You can probably see why I woke up at that point. All I wanted to do was learn the lessons being taught, but that was not going to happen with my computer torn apart.

In most dreams I not only see it, hear it, touch it, or feel it, but I can also smell it—whatever it is. The houses I remember have more details than what I could tell you about my own house—I could probably draw out many a floor plan of those dream houses and record the colors in those fictional spaces. I could tell you whether the water body I’m in is a lake, river, or stream and just how cold or warm it feels. The conversations don’t necessarily make sense but the word choice stands out—what do programming languages have to do with fixing the hardware in my laptop anyway?

It’s as if I’ve been gathering details—some trivial and some not—for years and all that data and those pieces of information are stuck in random sections of my brain’s hard drive. Maybe I’m the one who needs to defrag and clean up my disc. Perhaps all this unrelated junk is just slowing down my processing time and keeping my memory from storing what is important.

If we are such stuff as dreams are made on, then I’d rather my dreams not be quite so stuffed with useless details—unless, of course, I can figure out how to write a novel from them before my life is rounded with that final sleep.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Excuse me while I skip ahead to educational lessons I learned not while studying humanities, but while pursuing something totally different: an MBA. Sometimes my inner MBA rises up and pushes all that humanities knowledge to the side—though I’d like to think the analytical skills I honed in classes such as English literature led to my not only being able to analyze plots, characters, and themes, but also to do so with balance sheets, customer service philosophies, and branding decisions. Maybe that’s just why some people in the business community would rather not hear what I have to say.

So one of the big buzz words these days is branding. Branding this, branding that, branding yourself, branding your corporation, branding your non-profit, whatever. Really, it’s simply what Shakespeare brought up in Hamletto thine own self be true. And when you apply that to a business, branding is about making sure that the goodwill about your organization remains consistent with your mission and how you want those values communicated in the commercial world.

With large organizations, we, the customers, supposedly know what to expect if the company has created its brand well and protects it well. Whether I go to a Wendy’s by my home or thousands of miles away, there is this consistent feel to what it means to eat at a Wendy’s. Though menu variety and pricing fluctuates in minor ways from state-to-state, Wendy’s is still Wendy’s. If I want something else, then I go to the local Mom & Pop restaurant that does what it does—in a consistent or inconsistent manner—but knowing that that restaurant has its own way of doing things. If there’s no formula, as the consumer I take the risk that my experience will turn out better or worse than my expectations. Branded organizations such as Wendy’s are essentially making a promise that Wendy’s is what it is—nothing more or nothing less—but that I can mostly rely on a standard expectation of what going to a Wendy’s means. If that is not true, then Wendy’s brand begins to slip in the consumers’ minds.

Which is why I am flabbergasted to discover that the stand-alone Verizon store by my house is not what’s called a direct store, but an indirect store, similar to those found inside Target or Wal-Mart, according the Verizon representative.

Back story: what began as a simple online chat to discover how to access the discounts on Verizon accessories we were supposed to receive on our most recent purchase, led to my discovery that our Verizon store was in fact not a Verizon store. Now mind you, this did not come out until the representative finally figured out why she could not access my receipt, despite my giving her the invoice number and the time stamp. This is an hour of my life that I will never get back, but what I discovered about the business practice employed also makes no sense.

OK—so we can get the discounts applied through this local store. Small problem will get resolved—although I have to think it shouldn’t take me an hour to discover just why the branded representative could not resolve my problem herself. Plus, I think she should have been given some systemic way—through the receipt number or something—that indicated to her that I had in fact made the purchase at one of these so-called indirect stores.

However, the big issue comes down to trust. If I am not walking into an obvious indirect store, such as those in discount stores, why would I not think that a store that has the Verizon name on its walls is anything but a real—I mean direct—Verizon store? Frankly I don’t even know if our purchase price and the associated services are any different from what we could get in a direct store, but I do know I feel duped. We wanted to upgrade this Verizon phone through a direct store as we had done for every phone we have gotten since 2007—including the three phones we upgraded this year.

It’s not up to the customer to realize that the store he or she is visiting is a different sort of store—this information should be obvious. My experience with the brand told me a store meant one thing but apparently Verizon is using its brand for more than one kind of a store. That makes no sense to me—either as a customer or as a person who studied business. By making this issue confusing to the average customer, Verizon is muddying what its brand means and is at risk for introducing doubts about what else it might be muddying. I, for one, feel as if every time I go in such a store that I receive a different story about what costs are and what services come with what. By obfuscating what a store is or isn’t, Verizon is also leaving me to question the trustworthiness of these other practices.

I can’t say if Verizon is being true to me, but I have to say that it may not be being true to its own self—by introducing doubt into what is really included in its brand. But here’s what this one particular customer wants—that direct stores have a standardized look that is distinctly different from indirect stores. Maybe Verizon thinks the look is different enough, but if it is, it’s not so different that I knew that this local store is not the same kind of store as the ones I’ve patronized in the past.

The humanities taught me to question and analyze concepts presented to me as truths, while what I learned in business school taught me the hows and whys behind business concepts. In either case, what I gained was a deeper ability to dig beneath the surface to understand when something made sense—and when it didn’t.

To thine own brand be true—that’s just good sense—business or otherwise.

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert


Winter term, freshman year, on a bleak, white-washed January Ohio day, I showed up for the first day of that necessary evil of college: composition or expository writing or whatever you want to call the class each college makes you take to ensure you write well enough to get through any future college writing assignments. That day I met my future academic adviser, though I didn’t know it yet. The major hadn’t chosen me yet so I still had the adviser assigned to me before I showed up on campus. Dr. B. seemed the picture of one of those common caricatures of what a literature professor is like—he was a former beatnik with a salt and pepper early Beatles’ style haircut who rode an old black bike across campus, keeping his small manual typewriter set in the mesh basket attached to the front. He wanted us to call him by his initials or his nickname, but I stuck with the formal “Dr.” whenever I addressed him. I was way more uptight than this man, but we got along just fine, nonetheless.

When I left for college, I wrote well enough—you know, for a person who could apply basic grammar rules. My papers made sense and I could say what I meant. Still, like most of my peers, I did not write well enough to test out of the basic composition class. At the time I put that down to a writing prompt that had something to do with the Iran Hostage Crisis. As I mentioned in the previous post, I was really not into thinking that deeply at that point in time, but I’m pretty certain the reason I didn’t test out of the class was because I needed to take it not because of the difficulty of the prompt.

What I learned most in his class was less about writing with correct grammar—because I already did that well—and more about how to create writing that sounded fresh in a variety of settings. Yes, we could insert fragments (incomplete sentences) as long as we applied them sparingly and used our pens to indicate we knew what and where they were. (Excuse me while I apologize to him right now since it appears I often ignore his “sparingly” rule regarding usage of fragments—sorry, Dr. B.)

However, the fragments are just something that really resonates with who I am as a writer. I imagine I might write better if I stopped making quite so many asides. Not that I’m stopping. (Mark that frag. for Dr. B.) What mattered most was that he taught me and all my classmates the difference between writing in passive and active voice. He challenged us to circle every instance of passive voice we used in our papers and to leave as few as necessary in the final drafts. Even if I hadn’t majored in English or chosen to write/edit, I would have needed to learn this—hey, I think everyone needs to know how to write in active voice. Not only does writing become more immediate with active voice, but using it also forces writers to search deeper for just the right verb, something that tends to develop a more creative process.

To this day, I struggle to get through a book that distances itself through passive language. Maybe reading all those (mostly ancient) philosophy texts my first weeks in college influenced the amount of relief I felt from learning how to bring about some clarity in writing! Yet, I have read books on topics such as probability, process management, business, psychology, and DNA but only if written well—which for me tends to mean the writing uses active language. Even the chemistry and astronomy textbooks I proofread last fall avoided most usages of passive voice—the writing spelled out concepts in a straightforward and accessible manner that should aid future students in applying those concepts to the associated exercises and experiments.

Some of life happens to us—passive voice sometimes works in the tales we tell of those stories, but not always—unless, of course, we are deliberately trying to downplay the action. Imagine the emotional and visual difference between saying “I was hit by a car” versus saying “A car hit me”—one creates distance and a sort of matter-of-fact impression of the news while the other projects a strong picture that could lead to a more visceral response. Nonetheless, the first statement is exactly how my mother finally admitted she did remember after all that a car hit her first before she came home and fell again. Though my mom had a story to tell, she did not want to do so—she deliberately fell back on passive voice to obfuscate the facts.

Don’t make the mistake of using passive voice when you really want others to hear your story, though. Doesn’t matter if it’s an annual report for a business or a technical how-to piece or the story of how your mother broke her foot—if you want the reader to stay with the story, write in active voice as often as you can.

(Even after a car hit my mother, she healed well. Thank goodness we soon found a doctor practiced enough at listening to seniors that he could interpret passive voice narratives meant to conceal health and/or safety concerns.)

Note: this is the first in the series of topics/concepts encountered in college that mattered most to me. See the introduction post here.

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

When I went to select a college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to study for a major or what profession I wanted to pursue, so I looked for schools that had good programs in the variety of subjects that interested me. I figured that with exposure to different areas, the major would choose me. However, I already knew I wanted to continue studying Spanish—my high school teacher said at that time the U.S. was the fourth largest Spanish-speaking nation—surely knowing Spanish would continue to be useful no matter what else I studied.

So when the course options and registration materials arrived at my home a few months before I left for school, I selected a Spanish class and then mulled other options. Since this was back in the pencil and paper days, I had no idea which of my other suggestions would end up on my schedule until the paper with course numbers and times arrived. My first trimester classes represented a classic humanities schedule: the Spanish course, history (Western Civilization Part I), and Philosophy (Greek and Roman).

My introduction to philosophy didn’t exactly set me on fire. Though my son Jackson can go on for hours about all sorts of in-depth topics in philosophy, usually what he says goes way over my head. But if I had not taken that class with the lectures and texts that so often put me to sleep, I might have missed out on learning about Plato’s Cave. True, maybe I only stayed awake in class the day the professor introduced the topic because he showed it through a cartoon video—I’m not ashamed to admit that without those simplistic pictures I might have missed the point. Learning comes through many avenues, right?

Though so many years have passed since I watched that film, I can still see those men who were chained together in the cave, facing a wall and unable to turn to look behind them where a large fire burned. Shadows flicker on the wall—the men have no idea the images are mere suggestions of themselves or any activity happening behind them. Those shadows are their reality. Then one man is released and able to turn to see that so much more is occurring—he realizes the truth he knew was only partial. That same man then discovers a way out of the cave and encounters even more realities—even those who move freely within the cave do not know the whole truth, it seems. Amazed, he returns to tell the others how much more exists in the world—and, yet, they do not believe. They know what they know.

What a perfect concept to encounter so early in my education. The Cave taught me to question all assumed realities and to try to figure out for myself whether or not what I think I know about something is simply the shadows of that truth or if my understanding is based on something more tangible. On the other hand the Cave also showed me why others might not agree with my version of reality—and that sometimes the person who has seen the sun cannot enlighten others who have only known darkness and shadows, no matter how hard he or she tries.

I’m lucky I learned anything academically during my first months at college. Oh sure, I was going to all my classes and doing all my work—even if I had a lot to learn about time management—but I wasn’t really thinking very critically yet. The Cave opened my own eyes to the importance of thinking about what I was being taught—which was a good thing to learn early because in my four years at that college I was going to encounter a whole lot of blue books I had to fill with my own answers to essay questions. I could hardly believe that I could get A’s on philosophy tests simply by stating what I thought of what we were studying—I mean, what did I know about philosophy? My success on those tests showed me that maybe professors weren’t just looking for me to parrot what I’d been told.

Could it be the reality of pursuing an education was about way more than just doing the work? That it wasn’t enough to be a vessel filled with ideas taught by others?

In so many ways, previously my own idea of learning was like being chained in that cave. Take what you see and memorize it. How much better to be called to discern for myself whether what appeared to be reality was true light or simply shadows on a wall—or somewhere in between.

Not only might a major choose the person, but also sometimes so does knowledge.

2014 Sherman Lambert photo of sidewalk chalk art

2014 Sherman Lambert photo of sidewalk chalk art

Years ago—almost two decades ago—my husband Sherman and I attended classes at church based on a series of short stories and essays—more often secular than not—where readers were challenged to hear God in the words, even if the author had no intention of addressing God from a faith tradition. Over time we studied all four volumes in the Listening for God series.

I liked the classes. They reminded me of the “Portraits of Jesus” class I had taken in order to meet the religious course requirement at my college. I wouldn’t have signed up for the course, but I was studying abroad and had to rely on my fairly unconventional advisor to register me for the next term. I was surprised he had chosen this class for me after receiving my instructions where I told him to find me something different since “I had gone to church and Sunday School all my life.”

But, boy was I wrong about what that course was about. The first day of class the professor handed each of us a sheet of paper with various facial features for us to cut and paste into a portrait of who we thought Jesus was. Dr. Wolff presented Jesus in the varying Christian gospels, from readings from other faiths, and through all sorts of secular literature and movies where we looked for the Christ figure. He did not tell us what to think though I knew for a fact he attended a Lutheran church close to campus. Surprise, surprise, but at the end of the course I still thought Jesus was the guy I was taught he was while growing up, even though a bit grittier and more nuanced.

Our church is revisiting the Listening for God story series and this time Sherman is taking turns teaching the course with the woman who originally taught it back in the 90s. Sadly, since I sing in choir now I can’t attend most classes, but I’m still re-reading the stories so I can work with him as he ponders the coursework.

What I realize is that these stories are much darker to me now than they were the first time around. I and the world have changed. I see depths I could not see then—I am not quite the sunny optimist I must have been years ago. Is this part of the natural process of aging or have my own life experiences dimmed my ability to read with a more objective eye?

Frederick Buechner’s words in “The Dwarves in the Stable,” an excerpt from his autobiographical Telling Secrets hit me hard, especially now that they were so personal to me. In it he discussed a time in his life when his daughter was dangerously anorexic and how trapped he felt in his fear. He compared himself to C. S. Lewis’ dwarves who cannot accept the food and drink offered by the lion Aslan (of the Chronicles of Narnia) because they are so afraid that they cannot see love when it is offered.

“Perfect love casteth out fear,” John writes (1 John 4:18), and the other side of that is that fear like mine casteth out love, even God’s love. The love I had for my daughter was lost in the anxiety I had for my daughter.

This time I really got what he meant when he stated, “My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours.” Maybe it was the daughter part—which I now understand to my core having lived something similar—but somehow in earlier days I hadn’t connected with how fear—of anything—drives out God’s love. Maybe all fear for me pales compared to the fear for a loved one’s life.

Oh, the darkness was always in the stories but now I know fear much more personally. Unlike Buechner, though, apparently I have not done enough of the hard work of putting aside my fear in order to receive the love freely given to me.

That God’s love is greater than fear and darkness is a lesson I seem to have forgotten. As I once read those stories from a place of innocence and light, my bigger task now seems to be re-learning to see the light that is also in all those stories—and all around me.

Fear not, indeed. And so I renew my search for light—and continue listening for God.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

She walks in beauty, but not necessarily because of raven tresses or the goodness she has done or traits such as calmness or softness or innocence. She walks in beauty because of the best of dark and bright within her eyes—eyes which shine with her essence, be her essence more of night or of “gaudy” day.

Women and girls get so hung upon the perfectness of features—the lips not too thin but not too full, the flat belly, skin lacking in acne or scars, hair that performs as expected, thighs and calves that fit into skinny jeans—most often whatever they do not personally possess—or what they used to possess. Whole industries are built around telling us we are not enough unless we purchase certain products that hide who we are.

But who we are is where the true beauty resides. A woman who is doing something she loves wears beauty she cannot purchase. Joy radiates, whether at night or day.

Yet joy does not come simply to women who live in innocence or in soft ways. Joy comes in searching or discovery or mastery. Joy also comes from spending time with people who bring out the real persons inside and is reduced by spending time with those who expect us to conform only to their wishes of who we should be.

If nothing else, beauty comes from believing in one’s own beauty. How many women have you known who walk as if they are beautiful and, even if all the little pieces are not beautiful—a nose too prominent, a waist too thick, a smile too crooked—still have you convinced that they indeed walk in beauty?

Show the world who you are and the world will see you walking in beauty.

P.S. For another day to discuss whether or not walking in beauty should even matter . . .

[See “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron (George Gordon)]

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Happy Independence Day! But right away, my mind is wandering from that topic as it relates to the United States of America and thinking more about individual independence. Oh, I’ve read David McCullough’s books, John Adams and 1776, and remain absolutely amazed about how our country came to be—and that it came to be at all. The great experiment of trying to create a new country in a new way had so many reasons to fail—and yet it did not. What I noted about the great minds behind our country’s formation was that they were men both of action and of deep thinking. However, I am convinced that living in a time when people spent so much time alone in their own thoughts made it easier for them to come up with the original ideas they used to found this nation together.

That’s why a story on the front page of my newspaper (yes, I still want to hold that paper) grabbed my attention—and shocked me with its lead-in line: “People, and especially men, hate being alone with their thoughts so much that they’d rather be in pain.” (See Rachel Feltman’s article in the Washington Post referencing results from studies, published this week in the journal Science.) Many people would rather receive an electric shock than be alone with their own minds for a mere six to fifteen minutes? Really?

The results of studies on the ability of people to let their minds “wander”—defined as having time to sit and do nothing but think—make me (and others, no doubt) question just how often we as a society are missing out on being able to produce great ideas simply because we don’t let our minds wander nearly enough. Certainly our founding fathers had fewer outside distractions due to distances or lack of lighting and such, but they were also born not so long after people in their families had made a bold choice to leave what they had known to come to live in a place full of uncertainties and undeveloped spaces that encouraged much time alone with their own thoughts.

Between my husband, my daughter, my son, and me—not a one of us understands being bored with our own thoughts. No wonder we so often do not understand other people—nor they us!

True confession here: I find my mind to be fascinating and always have. I grew up in a small town where most of my classmates were bused in to school, so summers and weekends I had a lot of time to myself and yet rarely felt bored. I also had insomnia growing up, though I kept my eyes closed and stayed in bed, trying to fall asleep. In order to pass time, I made up stories for myself.

Years later I became a runner, for a few years running up to thirty-six miles a week, spending most of those six hours a week alone. I’d be rich if I got paid something for every time a person asked me, “What do you think about while running?” or told me how boring running was.

A few years later, a college professor of mine put into words how I felt about boredom. He used to say, “You’re not bored—you’re boring.” While I understand that the physical movement of something like running might not appeal to everyone, I still think the aspect of being alone inside one’s mind should not seem so boring.

Don’t just wait for someone else to fill your minds or–for goodness’ sake–give you physical shocks just to break the boredom. Slow down enough to learn how to listen to yourselves and the real shock might be in discovering that your own thoughts are way more fascinating than you knew.

Oh, people, people. Time spent thinking alone—even when you let your minds ramble on their own—is a great way to gain control of your own lives—and, maybe, a way to make a big difference in the lives of others. That little thought that asks you to pursue it might just be the next great thought for which we have been waiting. Your independent thoughts combined with mine and your neighbors’ thoughts might just lead to the next creative revolution.

Our founding fathers made order from chaos—perhaps by giving up a little order to pursue the chaos of our own minds, we have our best chance to return to being the sort of free-thinking people who created this country and made it great. To wander with wonder–now that’s independence.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Do you ever think that if you could just sit down to create and put together a really detailed spreadsheet, then life would be OK? I mean when worries wash over you, do you ever start heading for Excel? All will have to be OK with the world if you can just plug some information and formulas into some slots, hit return, and, voilà, the facts and answers will appear and all will be well? Or maybe this is just me?

Sometimes I like to work with numbers that just are, numbers that are black and unchanging, and, seemingly, nothing more. Find the number, drop it into the cell, and move on. The repetition calms me, lulling me into believing that those boxes can control and keep the data—as well as contain any possible associated messy meanings. A simple click on AutoFit column width and nothing can spill out or hide.

This, my friends, is why I am more than a creative. Somewhere deep inside in me I find comfort in putting things into boxes—except that with my ability to see shades of gray, things often escape from those boxes, despite my best efforts.

Though I am not enough of a nerd to assign emotions to particular numbers (trust me—my son can personify numbers in a manner far beyond my comprehension), deep down I realize that numbers can bring out emotions. If those supposedly black numbers take a turn into the red, my rational mind can become quite overwhelmed, especially when those numbers are personal to me. And sometimes, I know or discover that those numbers are not even as certain as I might like to believe.

Still, on a good day, I can give into the Zen of the spreadsheet and forget what significance lies in the big picture of totals, projections, associations, or anything beyond the next cell. In those times I am simply creating order out of chaos, recording history, and sticking with just the facts, ma’am.

so much depends
upon

black roman
numerals

inserted with taps and
clicks

inside white columns and
rows.

(With apologies to William Carlos Williams and his “The Red Wheelbarrow” poem.)

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Oh, I so wanted to talk about the world premiere of Sense & Sensibility The Musical that I saw this week at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. And, I felt certain that the dance, the quadrille, would be just the entrée for talking about the tale of the Dashwood sisters.

But, drat, I, like Elinor, am possessed of sense. As such I just had to do research—which revealed that the quadrille likely was not introduced to England until after Jane Austen had published her novel. Oh sure, the quadrille is very representative of the Regency Era, but Austen shouldn’t have been writing about it yet in her novel.

However, allow me some of Marianne’s sensibility and let me dance around the truth so that I may gush about the performance anyway—under the guise of the letter “Q”, as in quadrille.

I may not be a Janeite, but the English major nerd in me loves literary works done well in theatre and film. Wasn’t too sure if the Dashwoods ought to sing their thoughts, but I had to find out for myself. Have to say that it worked for me.

Was supposed to be a mother/daughter outing, but my daughter came down with the same stomach bug I had. Luckily, it’s just as good as a friends’ outing—and I could find a friend who was flexible enough to go with me on short notice. Lucky us—we were seated in the second row in the middle. We could watch the conductor direct in his period costume (nice ruffles at the cuffs!) or peer into the pit or hear the excellent singing happening not so many feet away from us.

Of course, much of the story is about the serious consequences that often resulted from the pettiness common to so much of society at the time. In truth, the social dancing scenes, with the characters’ noses held so high and much of the chatter limited to vicious gossip, so perfectly demonstrated the lows of high society in the Regency era—and yet also indicated how little people have changed even though music, dances, clothing, and social customs are so different today. Can’t speak to whether or not the quadrille was performed, but who could blame the director/choreographer if she slipped it in?

My friend didn’t know the story, so at least she wasn’t thinking ahead as I was. Sometimes the cast members would be singing away happily, and I’d be thinking, “Poor Marianne. Poor Elinor. Come on, Edward, man up.” Wouldn’t be surprised if much of the audience was thinking that along with me—although at least we also knew that all would work out in the end.

Sometimes I think I cry watching Sense and Sensibility because I would so be Elinor. She’s got that stiff upper lip under control—something we German-Americans also know a bit about. How easily it would have been for her to let life slip by in the name of sense. Though the dances of her times, both the physical dances and the dances of society, definitely required focus and control, she took the custom of staying in control too seriously.

But lest you think the musical is all about serious relationship stuff, you need to know there really is quite a bit of comic relief, too. I think even the guys in my house would have gotten into the show.

In fact, audience members didn’t need to know anything about the story in order to enjoy it. However, for those of us literary nerds who always want to know more than what’s produced on stage or written within the pages of a book, there’s a study guide. And guess what? The word quadrille does show up there, so I guess I’m not really cheating after all.

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