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It’s About the Kids…

It’s Wednesday morning. I’ve had a double cappuccino and a banana and I’m hoping that wakes me up for my day. So my post might seem dreamy or reaching into a netherworld that only I am connecting but hear me out anyhow.

I live in an area of sometimes pretty extreme isolation–especially in winter months. Most event planners around here avoid January because the weather is too unpredictable. Indeed our variety show was canceled two weeks ago due to snow storm but rescheduled for last night when we had a balmy 42 degrees going for us.

We are one of those rural communities that suffers from suicide attempts and sadly some follow through. The local high school last Thursday was the site of two kids of color–including one of my own–being jumped. I watch as the social workers and school admins try program after program that look great on paper. Whether it be Friday Night Live events in which only the non marginalized kids attend or forced sports togetherness that only increases isolation. I have my suspicions that these things are designed by people who don’t spend time with real students.

Perhaps by real I mean, kids who have souls and who recognize and see through the bullshit but aren’t old enough to navigate out yet. The kids who are vulnerable are those that feel. That know the world’s depths and the fakeness too that surrounds them–they aren’t numb yet to it. They know something is wrong. Pinpointing takes time.

Enter our tiny theatre troupe—Pachuca Productions. Back last year we had an idea. Tina and I are big Hamilton fans (we saw the production at the Pantages 2017). Lin-Manuel Miranda released that instrumental version of the show–last summer? What if we got some kids together to sing Hamilton songs with us?

They came from all over the county: Portola, Indian Valley, Quincy, Sattley–5 different schools. A couple of kids from each school. Shy kids. Kids never having been on stage before. Kids who didn’t know whether they could sing or not. We roped one of their principals into it and asked him to sing Right Hand Man as George Washington. We got the women who usually sing and act with us to sing a song or two. We created a costume contest. A kid made trivia quiz. A challenge to write a Ben Franklin wrap. We got the local theatre to rent us a kid friendly space. And we rehearsed them on two sides of the county a couple times a week since after Thanksgiving.

And now the shy and the isolated have taken to the stage and we couldn’t be prouder.

I’m not saying that theatre solves all the problems in the universe. And if someone wants to sue us for singing Hamilton songs in public know that we didn’t make any money off of the venture. Like donations just barely covered the cost of the building for a night. We are divorced moms with kids–please don’t sue us. And I donated the prizes for the contests.

But there was joy on shy faces. There was some serious confidence building. There was a break in January’s oppressively cold hold on this region. There was light. And it was beautiful.

Here’s some photos:

Pre-Show Green Room Selfie.

Bree — the shyest one who loves Dear Theodosia.

Sarah the King.

Indian Valley Academy’s Rendition of Cabinet Battle # 1


The audience sang along and laughed and cheered on the students. A kid from the audience won the trivia quiz getting 9 out of 10 Hamilton questions correct. We gave them pencil sets with Hamilton quotes on them.

For a moment the town hall theatre was warm and it wasn’t the bleak mid-winter anymore. Thanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda for your words and music. I hope you don’t mind. And Happy 264th probably Birthday, Mr. Hamilton.

I’ll post more photos as they trickle in…

My son and Daveed Diggs fan, Diego.
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small town

Be Kind to the Gay Kids, Please

I wrote this piece as my alter ego Maggie Wells a couple of weeks ago for my local paper job. It’s called Ten percent.   It’s inspired by real life events that have been unfolding. One of my favorite teens up here came out (or rather it seems was forced out) of the closet. I think you know where this is going.

Absolutely smart kid with a bright future ahead of her comes out in rural America to unloving maniacal guardian with a history of abusing women who don’t bend to his will.

She’s a kid.

He’s supposed to be the adult. He spreads rumors about his own kid. Threatens her with incarceration in mental health facilities. Texts her friends and threatens them. Texts her friend MY DAUGHTER to threaten her.  Threatens the girl’s girlfriend with a ‘redneck rape’ to set her straight. Rural America can be a dark and disturbing place. I feel for the kids growing up both in its wondrous beauty and its evil.

I am praying with all my heart that the girl makes it out of there alive and well and knows she is loved. Knows she is smart. Knows things do get better. Because right now all there is

is despair.

Pray for the gay kids to overcome their homophobic aggressive and abusive patriarchy run households and schools and communities. And may this tortured soul who truly believes he’s doing the right thing by being a hate filled raging lunatic be brought to justice.

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Just. One. Book.

Just. One. Book.

I live in a town of 1200 people in the Northern Sierra Nevada –where it meets the Cascade Range near Mt. Lassen National Park and about two hours drive northwest of Reno, NV.  Two hundred of that population is students. Over the years as the population dwindled after mills closed, then –nothing except tourism and retirement have emerged as ‘industries.’ Many businesses have closed down and with it many things we take for granted—like libraries.

The local junior/senior high school has not been able to purchase new books since the 90s. Some of the “check outs” for old books are in the 1970s-1980s. There are no books by people of color in the library. Hardly any books by women are in the few book cases except your standard Austen and Lee. It’s an uninviting place. There hasn’t been a librarian for nearly a decade. And volunteers weren’t allowed. The last eight years students couldn’t even check out books.

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But all that is changing now.

Greenville Junior/Senior High School and Indian Valley Academy, which share the library space have new leadership which are welcoming the idea of revamping the library. Both principals want to see the area’s students supported and reading. Like most of rural America we have no budget for such things as books, film, music , and other media and arts.

I’ve lived here 13 years. I’ve watched kids succumb to despair. Our suicide and alcohol abuse is rampant as it is in many small rural communities. 75% of our county is beautiful national forest. 44% of jobs are government jobs—mostly forest service. There used to be mills but they closed down in the 90s. So much of that other 56% is underemployed and unemployed. It’s a beautiful place to live but it’s also a scary place for the mind to atrophy. We have a median income of under 30K. At the local elementary school 2/3 of students qualify for free lunch. Getting the picture?

What we’re good at:

Because we live in a forest we do have great resources about natural resource management, forestry, conservation. We have a number of environmental organizations that help with a good deal of education and hands on learning experiences related with the great outdoors. We also have organic farms and sustainable ranches. Yay! So there’s the silver lining.

What we’re lacking is pretty much everything else.

We need racially diverse books. We need graphic novels. We need women’s studies. We need science. We need series. We need film. We need comics. We need music. We need biographies of important people. Looking for Young Adult. Classics. We want zines! Contemporary. Poetry. Everything that would make a difference in a young person’s life. Writers send us YOUR BOOK. We have many non-readers who we’d love to turn on to reading. We need a way to take this tiny area and bring it into the 21st century. We have a whole bunch of kids who don’t like to read because all they’ve ever been given is things that are either dull , dated, or dumbed down.

The students who excel are doing so because they have supportive parents at home and access to books and tablets elsewhere. But most students are without.

So here’s what I’m asking. Will you donate a book? A real book. Something literary or fun—something that speaks to your truth, their truths. Something that teaches them something about the world. Makes them feel less alone?

I’m asking for you to send a new book or film or cd to us to help us build a library we can be proud of.

We want things that will make a difference and get kids wanting to read and wanting to create. We want to engage.

We also are getting students onboard to design their new space. Students are actively reimagining and recreating their library space.

So who is with us?

Send us one book.

GHS/Indian Valley Academy

Library Project Attn: Margaret Garcia

117 Grand Street  Greenville, CA 95947

Thank you!

We now have an Amazon wish list up:  Amazon Wish List