It’s Never Too Early For Christmas

While everyone is talking Thanksgiving turkey, I’m putting out my favorite Christmas decorations, stacking up Christmas music, lighting holiday incense and soaking in the sights and sounds and smells.


It’s not because Thanksgiving comes a week earlier this year.  We’ve always played Christmas music during Thanksgiving dinner, but by now my music and dvd collections have expanded so there isn’t enough time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to hear/see each of them once.  So I started earlier this year.  


I love everything about Christmas.  There’s no frenzy here.  I don’t love shopping, never did, but gathering a few things to give as gifts isn’t a hardship.  I do much of it online, but I also go to malls on purpose during the season, just for the festive look of it.  


Making fudge and apple cake with a Christmas glaze for my neighbors is nice. (Christmas music plays while we cook.) 


I love church during Advent season.  The faces of the acolytes who carry the light down to the altar candles always look like Christmas  – a bit shinier than usual and quite reverent.  As the kids walk slowly, jeans poking out below the white robes, they resist the temptation to jostle each other and I imagine their parents watch and wonder, who is this child, so somber?  Surely this is not the kid who had to be reminded (threatened) to get here on time.


You won’t find me griping about the commercialization of this event, because for me it never has become that.  If all I ever had of Christmas were the sights and sounds and fragrances, and if that could last for months, I wouldn’t complain.  


Ó Anita Garner 2008

Mean Kids

We know what can happen to mean kids.  If they survive the other mean ones, they often turn into mean adults.  Mean kids are our responsibility. We need to admit that our little precious is capable of acting that way. 


“Want to play with me?”


“No.  You’re stupid.”


“You’re fat.”


“You’re ugly.”


Where do they get this stuff?


What if we establish a zero tolerance policy for this behavior?  Stop it cold.  Say an emphatic no in every single instance.  No you may not talk that way to anybody.


Some parents don’t believe in no. They believe in reasoning, talking everything through, giving the child choices at every opportunity.  That works well some of the time, for reasonable behavior.  But when a kid is feeling like being unreasonable, the question, “How would you feel if someone did that/said that to you?” doesn’t always get the hoped-for result.  Sometimes it elicits an indifferent shrug.


Shouldn’t bad/hurtful actions always require consequences?  I vote for not allowing choices about certain behavior.  I don’t mean toddlers who don’t want to share.  Altering this naturally selfish streak is how responsible child-raising works best. 


What I’m talking about is shunning.  Pack mentality.  Name calling.  Pushing.  Bullying. As hard as it is to admit it, most of our children try some of this some of the time. We can remove all of these from their options and if the situation allows, replace any demonstration of mean with consequences, followed by examples of acceptable behavior. 


We can tell kids that if they don’t want to play with another child, the way to decline is to say “No thank you” or “Not right now” and move away.  There should be no tolerance for getting other kids to make fun of the first one.  No taunting allowed.  No cruel teasing. No name-calling.  No ganging up.  No demonstrations of cruelty, ever. 


If mean is a natural behavior pattern among children, then we need to fix it. We know how to change many other aspects of “natural” behavior (eating from the dog’s dish, skipping baths, etc) and we (and everyone else who’s in charge of our children at any time) need to work to change this too.       


Ó Anita Garner 2008


Putting On A Show

Getting a play onstage is taking a lot longer than I thought, even though I’d been warned repeatedly that it’s generally years from genesis of idea to actual performance.  Colleagues tell stories about the development process, about rewrites and readings and workshops and more rewrites.  But it’s my first play and I’m only now feeling the truth of their words. 


Add into our process the fact that both parties involved are also working on other things at the same time – and I can see now how a a play could hang around for years before debuting onstage. 


Since mounting this play occupies so many of my thoughts and nags me constantly, even when I’m doing something else, it seems like a good time to chronicle some of the “making of.”


The play is called “The Glory Road” and it’s recently been revised (again.)  We’ve whittled down the cast size and focused the action on just one main story (You don’t even want to know how many storylines were woven through earlier versions) and now we’re talking with theatres about moving forward to an opening date.


The “we” in this story is me and the director, Greg Zerkle, who’s been with this project for years and is responsible for urging me (I’m the playwright) to trim and focus and simplify staging and timelines and make all manner of efficient, dramatic changes.  I only follow his advice when I agree with him (it is my story after all) but it’s surprising how often, after arguing my point for hours, I do eventually agree and we come up with a compromise that we both think enhances the play.  This is no accident.  This happens because Greg is, I believe, a genius with a vision.


Greg’s a multi-faceted theatre talent.  He acts and sings and directs and is performing right now in a show at Laguna Playhouse.  A few days ago he closed in a revival of South Pacific in southern California.  So we work between his rehearsals and the rest of our endeavors.


Greg’s wife, Cindy Marty, another multi-talented actor and singer, is gracious about the amount of time Greg spends on The Glory Road. Cindy performed at our most recent reading in Los Angeles and knocked our collective socks off.


So far the “making of” is fascinating.  I never thought something as painful as editing could prove to be so satisfying.  Maybe I’ll post as we progress, and we’ll all find out together whether the end result was worth all these years. I’m hopeful. 


In the meantime, if you’re interested in background information on our subject matter, see


Ó Anita Garner




Is Fifty The New Forever?

That table of students having coffee over there – all of them are dressed identically, all of them sound alike when they talk. Same clothes.  Same speech patterns.  Nothing odd about that, right? 

Except two of them just stood up to leave and someone at the table addressed one of them as “Mister” somebody and the other one indicated that they’d better hurry or they’ll be late for his class.

It’s official.  I can no longer tell high school and college students from the teachers and professors.  Not when they all look like they could be anywhere from 15 to 35. 

It’s not just because I’m getting old.  (I am, but that’s not the point.) The ageless look of this group is partly due to the fact that no one is wearing adult clothing anymore.  Some of the boys-to-men are wearing today’s iconic cap.  Some are in hoodies.  Everyone’s in soft shoes.  Everyone’s in jeans.  

And now my doctor has moved his practice to a huge group where no one wears doctor coats anymore and it’s nearly impossible to tell the young patients from the young doctors. 

Clothes used to be labels unto themselves – not the inside label, but the statements we made by what we put on. How we look offered clues about other things.  We did that on purpose.  Used our clothes to make a statement. Our statements probably offered comfort to some and consternation to others.  Genius or goof-off?  Can’t tell by the clothes anymore.

Here comes the back-in-the-day part:  When we were in our teens, we couldn’t wait to be adults.  Adolescence held no great appeal.  It was pre-Summer of Love, before the culture switched to worshipping youth.  It wasn’t a lot of fun to be a teenager.  In fact, nobody even called us anything except maybe “young people.” 


So we copied older people.  We dressed like them as soon as we could.  For my girlfriends, and me it was high heels all the time, tight skirts (think of the Office Manager, Joan, on Mad Men) with loads of makeup and hairspray.  Since there was no glory in staying young, the natural progression was to dress like adults soon. We didn’t hate it. 


I must have missed the memo about it not being okay to dress my real age.  Not that getting old is a picnic, but it’s also not awful and doesn’t need to be a secret. 


We can’t blame the 60’s and free love for everything.  We all bought into this whole switch from natural aging to forever young.  How come we ever thought it was okay to say “Don’t trust anyone over 30?” 


Fifty seems to be the outside age that my friends are comfortable with.  Some of them have already been in their fifties for quite a while and now staying fifty forever doesn’t seem like such a stretch.  Heck, it might even be medically possible one day soon.


Ó Anita Garner 2008