Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Last Sunrise

In the way that I crave ritual and moment-noting and recognizing life's passages, I've spent a lot of time this week saying things like, "This is the last time I'll see the sunrise out of this window." "This is the last time I'll make the morning coffee in this kitchen." "This is the last time we'll all pile into this living room to watch America's Funniest Home Video's together." More often, though, as I've watched the rooms empty under our own hands, I've thought..."What the hell have we DONE??" But I have my little mantra of change being healthy, the time being right to move on, the picture of my little office and a room for each girls, and...thank you, Universe...two bathrooms, neither of which is basically IN my kitchen. Oh, the luxury!

We're pretty much packed, and will have everything ready when the movers come at noon. It's 6:45 in the morning, and my Christmas tree is still up. That'll be the last to go. Something about the light has been keeping me calm and focused over these past exhausting days, and something about the ritual of taking it all down (which makes me sad under ordinary circumstances) needed to wait until the bitter end.

In retrospect, the decision to move this week after Christmas was a wise one, as far as the girls are concerned. They are so distracted by all of their Christmas things that they've paid little attention to everything else sort of disappearing around them. They have new games and new movies and new dolls, and though there have been some bedtime tears requiring long snuggles and hugs, they've been rolling with everything. Plus, they think the new temporary home, which Amelia nicknamed Pond View Cottage, is awesome. That novelty might wear off, but for now, I'm grateful for that.

So, I write this as I watch the last sunrise, drink the last cup of coffee, and feel grateful again for the life I've lived here. Bumpy and messy sometimes, but mostly just plain happy. We made a great childhood for two joyful little girls here, and we will try to show them by this giant example that the greatest risks yield the greatest gains, and that as a family, we will grow and evolve together, connected still through the new seasons of our lives.

Tonight we'll pile into a strange living room to watch America's Funniest Home Videos, surrounded by their dolls and stuffed animals and their own blankets. There are many miles to march today before we reach that point, though, so it's time to get to work.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Finishing the Hat

Finishing Act One feels better than I thought it would. It feels like A Thing. It feels like an achievement. I've more-than-halfway committed myself to creating something and there's really no turning back now.

Like my play mirrors Romeo and Juliet, my creative process and my moving process and my turning-40-processes all mirror one another.

It's very fun, and I can't say it any more poetically than that. It's a ride.

Lisa, of all people - the authority on mindful leaps of faith as far as I'm concerned - congratulated me on taking a leap of faith. I'm honored by that. Patrick says our life change is not so much a leap of faith but a carefully calculated step forward. I can respect that. For me, though, I see it as a marching forward, very Dolly Levi through the streets of New York, waving my flag and spreading love around with all her might, and creating the life she wants for herself. Unapologetically and gratefully. Give me a feathered hat!

And it's Christmastime. Fragrant and musical and tasting like cheesecake and champagne. Are you feeling its blessings this year? I hope you are, because I really really am. I want you to feel the same sort of thrill of your very own. You know how there are certain markers for how strangers connect to each other? "Where were you on September 11th?" is one of them. Because I've shared so many Christmases with my friends, I feel like we've had many conversations around the question, "When do you know it's Christmas? What's the song? What's the ritual? When do you let it in?" I think every person I like is able to understand and answer that question. It's a nice way to know your peeps.

So, peeps, I finished Act One. Cheers to me, and cheers to you for whatever you did today that made you feel proud of yourself. And if you don't have one for today, decide to create one tomorrow.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thank you, Santa!

I am so excited. Tomorrow is the greatest day to have a snow day in the history of snow days. I might get to see the end of Act One!! I have nothing left in me tonight, so I'm going to lie on the couch and drink the leftover White Christmas Martini Punch and watch Julie and Julia with Patrick. (His choice, not mine. No lie.) I will block my ears for the scene where Meryl Streep goes into descriptive detail about a particular meal she ate, but other than that, I will relax and enjoy a well-earned evening of down-time.

A Lawrence Welk Christmas episode from 1972 is on PBS right now. Thanks for that, too.

Snow Day

I made it sobbingly through packing the baby clothes, and ended up saving one bin of clothes and one bin of toys. The rest was thrown away or will be freecycled tomorrow. I found all of my old Barbie stuff, and was amazed at how much of it was not actually the Barbie brand, but rather my own creative rendering of random stuff I found. For example, my grandmother used to wear these plastic rain bonnets that she got from the Telephone Company. They came in these funny little yellow plastic containers, and I made like five of them into Barbie purses.

I found the Seventeen magazines I saved - the prom issue and the back-to-school issue from my four years of high school. Does anyone remember how much plaid we wore? I had forgotten that. And man oh man...did we ever have tall hair!

The attic is done. My part of the basement is done. What remains is our living spaces, which I am trying to do surreptitiously while the girls are not looking. I want it to remain as much ours as I possibly can until after Christmas.

I'm thankful for the snow today, though Amelia is stranded up with Patrick's parents. I think she couldn't be happier about that turn of events but it is a reminder to me of why I'll never be able to send my kids to summer camp. I feel the lack of her keenly, even for just one day. Abby is happy as a clam playing with our neighbor, Zach, and attempting to make a snowman and stopping in from time to time for cocoa and last night's leftover cupcakes. I'm thankful for the chance to see my house snowcovered one last time. It sure is beautiful here.

With all of these blessings, I feel selfish to wish beyond hope beyond prayer that school is cancelled tomorrow. It would be the best, most perfect timing for a snow day off in the history of Snow Days. It has been snowing ALL day long. Surely they can't clean up all of that in just one night? Oh, here's hoping.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

How are you? I am fine.

I believed in you for true real until seventh grade, Santa. I really just held onto it. And as it turns out, I still believe. I really do. There is a Christmas Spirit that comes in December, and it is real. It is enveloping, and I just decide, every December, to give my heart over to rolling around in it.

Santa, this has been a busy year. One year ago right now, I was busily trying to finish Act One of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. (That experience surpassed my grandest dreams. Thanks for that.) I had made an epic decision to buy Amelia a bunny on Christmas Eve, crossing A Christmas Morning with a Live Animal off my list of Things to Do. (The bunny is dead now, by the way. Probably eaten by coyotes. REALLY sorry about that, Santa.)

Anyway, here, a year later, I’m struggling to finish act one of Wherefore Art Thou. (And not for nothing, Santa…it’s kicking some serious ass. Not there yet, but getting there. If you are mixed up with God and Mother Earth and Dionysus in making that happen, well…thanks for that.) Something tells me you’re all somehow working together up there to make good things happen for me.

So, Santa…I haven’t been perfect this year. I’ve had weaknesses and errors and disappointments and stupid moments. But that’s the same of everyone, every year. I really do believe that. The thing is, Santa…this year has been very different, because this year, more than any other year ...I have tried really hard to be as close to perfect as possible. I have tried harder than any other year to live thoughtfully and deliberately, and I feel that my efforts have paid off.

I have received so many gifts this year. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and my trip to the Broadway Teachers’ Workshop and reading I Capture the Castle and getting a new Harry Potter Movie and surviving my high school musical, and Glee. I am grateful. And I am grateful for finally writing a blog. (For finally writing something, mostly...besides my journals.) I started this blog last April, when the trees were budding, and I was given the experience of saving five baby swans with my Abby on a perfect, fragrant, springtime afternoon. I was given that, I think, so that I could have something completely unique and real and kind of winsome to write about, and so that I could share a Perfect Mothering Moment with Abby, the kind we will both always remember and use to define the best of our relationship.

Really, when you think about it, in a whole entire calendar year, that’s a wonderful agenda to set. To try to find one true, real, definitive moment to attribute to the fabric of a friendship, or a family, or a marriage. I’ll have to think more about this concept when it comes time to write my New Year’s Resolutions.

For now, Santa, please keep the Christmas Spirit alive and well in my yellow house, in our last Christmas here, in maybe my daughters’ last Christmas of believing with pure hearts. And let this house be all wrapped up with their memories of a happy, secure, inspiring childhood.

So, on my list of thank you’s, thank you for this home, and thank you for the clarity that it is time for us to move on. This is what we need, and I am grateful for the knowledge that no matter how much disarray we now face, it will all be worth it in the end.

I love this leap of faith, and I will remember 2009 as a year of many leaps of faith – as a writer, as a wife, as a mother, as a person in the world. I am not the same person I was last Christmas. I am proud of myself for putting in the work to get here.

So, because I was such a good, hard-working girl this year, would you please bring me Season One of Glee on DVD (which comes out on December 29th), a hand-held device for my phone, something made from chocolate, and a productive read-through of my new play on Christmas Eve.

I love you, Santa. I will leave you cookies and milk, and I will listen for your bells.

Becausewait for it

The bell still rings for me, and for everyone who truly believes.

I believe. Oh, I believe!

Faux Christmas

Faux Christmas Eve started in 1991 in Crabtree Dorm at UMass. Elise and I were roommates, and had just finished a very emotional semester (weren't they all, though?) where I had been through an intense whirlwind relationship, pined for a boy I couldn't have, and we had both spent a sememster both performing in a Theatre Guild show and serving on its executive board. We were tired. We wanted to celebrate Christmas together, and so we picked a day to declare "Faux Christmas."

The night before became Faux Christmas Eve. We invited as many as we thought could fit into our dorm room - our mutually nearest and dearest at the time. Peter Fernandez, Craig Doescher, Shawn, Jen Davis, and Allan Maki (and we had invited Ben, who for some reason I don't remember, couldn't make it.) We had a tiny two-foot tree with one strand of lights from the K-Mart at the Hampshire Mall. Snacks consisted of a canister of Quaker cheese puffs, a bag of M&M's (which was a four dollar indulgence at the time), a box of crackers from our dorm store, and on Elise's insistance, a can of squeeze cheese. In our hostessing inexperience, we engaged in a significant debate about whether we should pre-squeeze the cheese onto the crackers, or allow the guests to do it themselves.

We watched Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph, and comforted Shawn, who insisted he had a tapeworm and laid on Elise's bed in his coat, hat and scarf the entire time. Amazingly enough, it began to snow, and we all went outside in the snow and played Volleyball as only a bunch of college theatre geeks could do - without the ball, improvisation-style. The Elise and I made snow angels, and the caption under the picture was..."SNOW, maybe."

It was one of those nights in my life where I felt very securely part of a tribe, a unit, and felt surrounded by loving spirits in every single corner of the room.

Faux Christmas has become an annual tradition, and though it has evolved significantly through the years, that one essential fact remains the same. In the glow of Christmas lights, with the scent of Yankee Candles in the air, my tribe will gather, and there will be loving spirits in every corner of every room.

Faux Christmas has been held in various dorm rooms, twice in Rolling Green (which began the tradition of bringing home-made ornaments to hang on the tree), in several apartments of Patrick's and mine, and here in this yellow house for the past nine years. Guests have come and gone, a book's worth of drama has ensued to ridiculous extents, Ben has read the entire novel of A Christmas Carol aloud once through (to begin again tomorrow), and the amount of vodka consumed over the years would make any 300 pound Russian hurl.

Tomorrow we will bid this house farewell in style. As cliche as it sounds, this house will ring with love and laughter and Christmas Cheer, and I will once again find a moment to connect with many of the people who mean the most to me, and feel filled to my core with gratitude that I can love and be loved by the greatest people in the world - my friends, my Chosen Family. I will miss Elise and Lisa and Craig, but they will be in my heart, I know.

The only original participant who will be here tomorrow is Peter Fernandez, who will come with his fabulous wife and perfect new daughter. He rented a car just for the occasion, and the Faux Mistletoe that he drew for Faux Christmas #2 (which was held at my parents' house in Hull '91) will still be strategially placed throughout the house. We have a special tree for the Faux Ornaments - Ben's yogurt cup and Craig's rubber cockroach and the cross-stitch snowman from this one slutty girl we used to know at UMass - they will all be up there. (Well...not all. There are some that make me sad from people who are no longer part of our lives. I'm not ready for those quite yet.) It's the most bizarre freaking two feet of Christmas tree you ever saw, and I couldn't love it more.

And tomorrow night, for the last Faux Christmas here, there will be snow. Seems fitting.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In My House Right Now...

Amelia is writing a script for a play - which she plans to direct - starring Abby and Avery. It is the story of two sisters from the country who move to the big city to become Broadway Stars. It will feature songs from Irving Berlin's White Christmas, which we saw in NYC last weekend. Abby is preparing by belting the song "Love and the Weather" at the top of her lungs. Amelia's working title is Blue Skies.

That's what my house sounds like on a regular Tuesday Night.

They are already pajama-clad, and in ten more minutes they will come downstairs to watch Mickey's Christmas Carol and Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too. There will be coziness very soon.

I am trying very hard to appreciate my remaining moments in my sweet yellow house.

Oy. The Avoidance.

It's incredibly ironic that I posted several times on this blog yesterday when I just should have been focused on one thing. I also checked my email, corresponded with several people on Facebook, revised old scenes, all while writing new scenes. I used to pride myself on multi-tasking, but now I just feel a little like I have multiple-personality-disorder, or, at the very least, severe ADD.

Coming along, though. I'm more than halfway through Act One, but my read-through is going to be moved up closer to Christmas. I may not make it to the end of the act by then, but I will just keep trying.

And packing. Writing and packing, writing and packing...and wrapping presents.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kelly Chronicles - The Medley

I will now present The Kelly Chronicles circa the end of 2009 in the form of a Show Tune Monologue/Montage.

Cue the blackout...baby pink spotlight...the vamp begins...then...

Open a new window, open a new door.
Travel a new highway that's never been tried before
Before you find you're a dull fellow, punching the same clock.
Just walking the same tightrope as everyone on the block...

Key change, bump the lights, new vamp...

Don't tell me not to live, just sit and putter. Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter...
Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade!
I'll march my band out. I'll beat my drum!
And if I'm panned out...your turn at bat, sir. I guess I didn't make it. Hat, sir.
At least I didn't fake it. (hold out the sustained e-flat...)

(Insert a speech here...something about thank you for being a part of this journey, it's a great time to be alive, the house cocktail is...you guessed it...a Fauxmopolitan! Pause for laughter...Hop on piano and cross my stockinged legs, my sequins catching light.)

People...people who need people...are the luckiest people in the world!
With one person, one very special person...a feeling deep in your soul.
Says you were half, now you're whole. No more hunger and thirst, but first
Be a person who needs people!
People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.

(Insert here about that beign the conclusion of my Barbra impression, blah blah blah connection, lead into theater, blah blah blah writing, take a sip of my martini, and begin again...)

What next? Maybe a little Corner of the Sky? Maybe something from Little Women? Nah. Not another ballad. Something uptempo. Then maybe introduce a Very Special Guest, like College Roommate Elise or Pete the Artist or Craig from Seattle or that guy who played George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. Duet duet...kisses and hugs.

Bring it on down now...going to the contemplative place...

I hear a bird...a Gloccamora bird. It well may be he's bringing me a cheering word.
I feel a breeze...a river Shannon breeze! It well may be it's followed me across the seas.
Then tell me, please...
How are things in Gloccamora? Is that little brook still leaping there?
Does it still run down through Donney clove, through Killy Bairn, Killkerry and Kildaire...

(And it totally won't matter that I don't know how to spell those things, or even what the hell I'm saying. They're Irish Places. You will be able to hear that I get the essence. I digress. Please continue your tour...)

I like this one, so I go on...

How are things in Gloccomora? Is that willow tree still weeping there.
Does that laddie with the twinkling eye come whistling by,
and does he walk away, sad and dreamy there, not to see me there.
So I'll ask each weeping willow, and each brook along the way,
and each lad that comes a whistling...too ra lay.
How are things in Gloccomora this fine day?

But it will never do, I explain, to linger in what's past. It's healthy and satisfying to dabble there when you need to, but when it matters, you've got to look forward. You've got to look at what's ahead of you and figure out how to move forward, ever closer to the person you want to be.

Dim the lights for the finale...

Something is stirring, shifting ground.
It's just begun.
Edges are blurring all around, and yesterday is done.
Feel the flow...hear what's happening...we're what's happening.
Don't you know, we're the movers and we're the shapers.
We're the names in tomorrow's papers.
Up to us now to show 'em.

It's our time, breathe it in. Worlds to change and worlds to win.
Our time, coming through. Me and you, pal. Me and you...

I would likely go on for the second verse, bridge and final chorus. And then I would blow kisses and give a low curtsy, and smile with sincere gratitude that you came here to join me tonight.

The encore, of course, will be Freak Flag. Oh, yes it will.

Thank you, and goodnight! Tip your waitress! Drive safe.

God Bless us, every one!

Die, Vampire!

First, this was an accident, but this turns out to be post 101 on my blog. 101 is my magical number. I wish I had something more poignant to say.

I'm working heads-down on my play tonight, and I'm beginning to fear that it's going to be just an extended episode of Glee, without the music. Which, when you think of it, is worse than nothing. There's a song in (title of show) about Psychic Vampires...something about wanting to make your art but knowing in your middle-of-the-night voice that there's really no point, that Sondheim and Sedaris did it better. You have to wrestle that Vampire down and paint your picture or do your sparkly dance or sing your song or write your play, no matter how convincing the nay-sayers might seem. (If you don't know that show, you simply MUST listen. Love it!!!) I don't need to win any prizes for this little play or anything, but I have about the coolest kids in the world looking forward to this, and I want to have something to share that will do justice to their time and their energy.

So, I will continue trying to kick the mother-effing Vampires in the teeth and keep on writing. I'm halfway through Act One.


Three Bad Things

Ooooh...it's crazy round here.

I realized three bad things today. One, I prematurely packed and stored my copy of the DVD of Shakespeare in Love and I REALLY need to watch it, or have it on the background while I'm trying to write this play.

Two, I still have a lot of packing left to do. A lot a lot a lot a lot a lot. And...when am I going to do that?

Three, there is no Dunkin' Donuts between my temporary house and my school. No coffee shops of any kind, just houses and ponds. Oh. My. God. I don't even know. I can't even...I just can't. I am distressed.


Found today. This is a Recipe to Unwrap Your Life. I like that very concept…

1. Do something you've been avoiding, without thinking twice.
2. This might mean that you need to mail the letter or send the proposal. It will put things in motion.
3. This might mean you need to make the call or send the resume. Go for broke.
4. This might mean that you need to tackle the hand wash cold.
5. This might mean you need to make a meal from whatever you have on hand in the kitchen, without restraint or apology.
6. This might mean a dog walk or a litter box cleaning.
7. This might mean forgetting what he said, she said, you said and everything that has been said before now.
8. No one can tell you a thing. There is no "how to do."
9. There is only do.
10. Play as if your life depends on it. Without you, there's no music.

See? Shedding. There’s something going around these days. I have a number of things I feel that I need to address.

That was from http://mommazen.blogspot.com/

and then one I referenced in my last post is www.damomma.com.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I love love love my parents in law. I know that's incredibly rare, but it's very true of me. They are wonderful people. No one is perfect, of course, but I love love love them.

They are very supportive of Patrick's work, and they are amazing with my daughters. They understand the girls so well as the very unique personalities they are, and relate to each of them just as she needs. The bond between Patrick's Dad and Amelia is particularly tender and wonderful to me. It's a poetic connection, and I will try to do it tribute properly someday. There's a short story in there somewhere, and I would hope to be able to capture the way they look at each other, right smack in the eye.

They came down for Patrick's fancy museum on Saturday night, and took us out to dinner. Amelia was sitting beside her Grampa and said, "Grampa, what's your job?"

"Well, I'm retired now. My job is to be your Grampa. But I used to work for Polaroid, which no longer exists."

"What's Polaroid?" Amelia asked him.

"They made cameras," he said over the noise of the crowd.

"Camels?" answered Amelia. "Oh. I thought they made themselves."

Oh, we howled. He was still giggling when we said goodnight ten minutes later. I am so happy to have played a part in raising a daughter that could make this good man laugh like that.

I often hear people complain about their parents-in-law, but I adore mine. I hit the jackpot when I became a Browne.

Write Me Well

I am catching up on my DVR, and watching last week's SNL with Taylor Lautner. I don't think I have ever used this phrase before, but he's actually kind of bad-ass. He did this whole fighting werewolf routine, and it was impressive. I actually read two and a half Twilight Books, and I'm rereading the second one. Several people I like enjoyed them, and so I'm reading these books to know them better. (And because they are entertaining.) Do you ever do that? Read books to know people better? It's one of my favorite ways to know people. In fact, I can tell the people in my life who know me best by the ones who have read Anne of Green Gables and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Harry Potter and Little Women. And, as a matter of fact, this blog. Hmm. I didn't see that coming. I think I need to be better at that - giving that back, I mean. I think that I need to read my friends. I don't even know if that makes sense. But a neat experiment might be to ask people to send to me their top three formative books...the ones that are imprinted and defining. I will try to read them, and reflect back what I find. That's would be a neat way to do a character study. If that's already been done by someone more clever, feel free to let me know. I'll blame it on the second Fauxmopolitan.

And while we're on the subject, I'm beginning to know that people are reading this. It's kind of exciting, and a little bit scary, and I've found that I'm deciding to divulge more, to lean more toward an open journal than a blog. I'm not sure how much further I'd be willing to go on that path than where I am now, but it's an interesting line to be walking.

Kind of an amazing world, isn't it? Where you can get a glimpse into someone's real mind with the click of a button?

My favorite line in Shakespeare in Love is when Viola says, in her farewell to Will, "Write me well." What a delicious phrase. I don't know if I will ever be able to write someone else well - my mother or my grandmother or my great-grandmother, all with the most fabulous stories to tell. I have fabulous stories - their stories - to tell, and I hope beyond hope that I will figure out how and when to tell them. In the meantime, though, I am trying to write me well...me, my flawed, dramatic, passionate, seeking, gratingly irritating self.

It's a start. It's something. It's a way to connect to people. Maybe not ever in the life-altering, inspirational way, but in the way of knowing that somewhere, there is someone like you. Someone who might not think the same way, but at least thinks, same as you. I have a favorite blog written my a brilliant woman, a mom of three, who I have met in person, and who definitely tells the truth of who she is, and how she wants to be in the world. She's an awesome mother. Flawed and passionate and sarcastic and just so freaking honored to be mothering daughters. I admire her so much, and while she might know who I am, it's merely in passing. And yet I feel like I sit down for coffee with her weekly, hear the stories of her magnificent daughters and her energetic pursuit of happiness, and connect. And it's a click away.

I have this ridiculous secret 3-in-the-morning fear of 2012. I'm actually angry that they made that movie and showed the trailer with the Harry Potter movie. I know it's totally unreasonable, and yet I sort of believe it in the way I believe in the DaVinci Code or National Treasure. (What? Could totally happen, dude.) Anyway, I have been told by smart people that to call it the end of the world might just be a form of ascending. We are shedding old ways and old patterns of believing and making room for new, more open-minded ways of relating to each other. It could be like a Renaissance.

Okay. Okay fine. That was DEFINITELY the second Fauxmopolitan talking. Peace out, friends. Merry merry ho ho ho.

...And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Bit of randomness for today...

I am very proud that in the midst of the madness of my household right now, I'm still clinging closely to Christmas. I have felt very in the spirit since the start, and have accomplished my goal (so far) of making this one very magical and festive for the girls. We've had some great family events together, and despite the packing boxes, our halls are still as decked as can be. Watched a bunch of great sappy Hallmark movies, and seen some epic Christmas light displays. I love tacky Christmas light displays. Good thing I married Patrick, sensible and classy, because a weaker man would have ended up with a twelve-foot lit-up snowglobe and at least nine sparkling reindeer on the front lawn.

My play is coming along nicely. I'm still afraid it isn't funny. I can do teen romance, I can certainly do teen drama, but the humor is evading me still. I'm very much hoping that my former students, my inspiration, who are going to do the read-through for me will help to infuse some of that.

Christmas shopping is almost done - the girls are done completely, and everything is even wrapped! We normally do that on Christmas Eve while watching It's a Wonderful Life. I actually thought it was something that Patrick enjoyed, but turns out...he doesn't, actually. So now it's all done and Christmas Eve will just be the two of us, George Bailey, and the eggnog.

And speaking of George Bailey, I watched a bit of that movie last Saturday night, and I still think it's the most wonderful film that has ever been made. It's a perfect story, and I couldn't love it more. They are doing the show again at my theater next year, and it looks like I will get to share the role of Mary again (provided I lose 30 pounds, which I totally will...and this is my decree, not the theater's, lest you think that they made that a condition. I just want to tell the story truly, and a matronly-mama-shaped Mary ain't gonna fly.) Anyhooo...one thing I love so much about being in that play is the fact that Michael, who plays George, takes it so incredibly seriously. He'll joke off stage, and just be a regular guy, but when he gets out there, each and every single night for 21 performances, he IS George, and he gets all of the rest of us to rise to the occasion. He honors the story and the chance to tell it to 400 people a night, and I so respect that about him. His total honesty in all of it, but particularly in the "we've got to stick together" speech kills me every time. It's such a privlege to get to tell that story, to inhabit the world of Bedford Falls every few years. It'll be well worth ten months of ass-busting to have that chance again.

My mom is leaving for Chicago tomorrow to be with her sister for her surgery. I'm glad she's going to be there for my aunt, but I do not like my mom not being home at Christmastime. She's due back on the 22nd.

The girls have their school concert on Thursday night, and out of three solos awarded to kids in the whole school, my girls each got one. I think my head is going to explode from pride, no lie. They are talented and confident and I'm crazy about them.

I packed my basement for 5 hours yesterday, and didn't cry once. Things are coming along.

On Thursday I have to teach sixth grade boys how to do counted cross-stitch. Send me patience and herbal tea, 'cause I'm not allowed to drink vodka in school.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Moving Out

Packing boxes are all over my house right now, ones I’ve pulled from school, or gotten from the friend of a friend. Sharpies, labels, the tape-gun, wrapping paper, and not the Christmas kind.

I’m very present in the fact that this piece of my life is coming to an end. It’s been a long phase, the marriage/motherhood/rising professional phase. A lot has happened to me in this little house, in every part of it, in a home that has felt completely, totally my own since the beginning. I had a little piece of Earth, just like Francie’s grandmother demanded. (And by “my own,” I mean ours, Patrick’s and mine. But he has to write his own blog about what this yellow house has meant to him.)

I can trace every “self” I have been through the places I’ve lived. Pieces of me have carried over, but I am my home and my home is me. Mr. Plumbeam and the Big Orange Splot. Do you know that story? It’s wonderful.

Long ago, I was the little girl on K Street with the doll table and chair set as my “office” desk. I hung contact paper onto the fiberglass insulation of the basement apartment. My cat used to sit by my feet while I wrote my little stories in notebooks, and then he’d get stuck in the wall and we’d have to lure him out with cheese. Government cheese, provided to my mother on welfare. Bread, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese. Rice-a-roni, made of white rice, tuna and a can of cream of mushroom soup. These are poor people’s foods, and they comfort me even now. Rainbows and unicorns in my Lisa Frank coloring books and sticker pages. Knowing that I was swimming upstream, and working for something. My mom was working for me to get something, be something more than the ones before me had had the chance to be. I shared a room, and bunk beds, with my brother, and I learned about resilience and strength in the things my mother never said.

Then I was the girl on Hadassah Way. A house that my mom and her new husband bought from her parents, a house I had lived in with all of them when my mom had gotten divorced. Then, I was the girl with my own room, finally. I sat and journaled beside a crabapple tree on a window seat fashioned out of a radiator and afghans knitted by my grandmother. Hideous 1970’s Lawrence Welk colored afghans, sometimes made of accidental patterns of yarn from whatever was leftover after knitting the bedding for each of the four bedrooms. (I have one of those afghans now, and it is one of my most treasured possessions. I had Katie give birth under it in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.) The amazing house that my Greatest Generation grandparents were able to afford after living their own childhoods and early marriage in such poverty. They made a jump up on the social scale, and I was in a yellow bedroom by the sea because of it. In that house, I had a canopy bed that had belonged to my aunt. A hand me down, but still…my own. I had a record player, also left behind from my aunt along with a pile of Broadway records and Fleetwood Mac. Sacrifices were made to keep me there, in a place of normalcy and safety. I can recognize and appreciate that now. I appreciated it then, I think, but I was, in the way of all adolescents, just ready for more, very quickly. I was bursting to get out and BE, to learn and explore and taste every thing that life could offer me. And I had the soundtrack to go with it. That’s who I became on Hadassah Way. I plotted and planned and projected, and manifested my whole entire future.

And then there was college – Crabtree and Rolling Green and all of those other dorms and waiting places in between. It’s a Wonderful Life poster and Lisa’s paintings and a rose-colored quilt. I know that’s why I want to paint my office in the new house that same rose color. I want to bring a little bit of that girl along with me in my new house. I liked her. She figured out the concept of Moments in the Woods. Learned to see the moments, appreciate them, and mark them down in purple pen. I’m glad she has remained with me still. (I think I have recently felt embarrassed by that part of me – overly romantic and Hallmark-movie-of-the-week-ish. I am getting over that. I am letting my freak flag fly, finally. Oh, that’s been freeing.) I learned to live with others in those experiences, valuable lessons, and forged the friendships that have been my life’s foundation.

Then it was back home to the yellow bedroom by the sea, which I felt the need to strip of the marigold-colored wallpaper and add a little wildflower border to my white wall. I needed to live at home, for financial reasons, but also because I was needed there, though I still feel that I was not able to fully fulfill my mission to my family in that time. I shut out a lot, and I sometimes wonder if I was supposed to be more supportive, or if I was supposed to focus on my own journey and doing my part to bring the line along, so to speak. I had made it to college. I was getting ready to marry the Good Boy. I wondered, then, if my grandmother had lain awake in this same house years before, hoping that everything she was sacrificing would ultimately allow for someone, one of us, one of her progeny, to get where I was going. To take that next step up. I used that time, in that room, to end my life as Me, alone, and get ready to permanently share my life with someone. I was very present in that transition, too. Scared the shit out of me, but I was IN it.

Our apartment on North Street, and our brief time in that Duxbury mansion, tromping my pregnant self up three flights of stairs. Building a marriage, having a child, and getting ready to own my piece of the Earth, a piece with a porch swing and a back deck and trees trees trees. I know the outline of every one of those trees against the night sky. I know my stone wall and my yellow bedroom and the girls’ peach bedroom with directives painted on the wall by my own hands….explore, learn, play, dream, celebrate, learn, wonder, laugh…I hope that there have been nights when they have had a hard time sleeping, and they have read them round in a circle by the light of their nightlights, and repeated them a like a mantra. Burned them onto their little spirits. I have been entrusted with the souls of two Little Women, and I have tried to be a good teacher. I became a mother and a wife here. Here on Westwood Road.

In the Westwood Road years, I have learned the value of connection. If my college word was Moment, these have been the Connection years. Stretching the boundaries of my relationships, all of them, just to see what they were made of. How much they could withstand, how they could all fit together. I have never stopped marveling at how close you could be with a person, and how varied those forms of closeness could be. I feel like now, I am working to study them, a few at a time. My friendships ebb and flow now, but I do believe that the friendships that matter will remain true in their cores. We are all busy people. We’ve all got a lot of living to do right now. Someday, not as far away from now as we think, my friends and I will have time to sit on my front porch, or some front porch somewhere. We’ll drink wine and watch the waves and mull it all over. We’ll have time for that again, like we did in college. Only…we’ll have more to talk about. Right now we’re busy living the lives we’ll be laughing about later.

In this new place that I go, I will see my girls through high school, and maybe beyond. I will evolve into the next phase of my marriage. I will let it all unfold as slowly as I can. I am not in any hurry right now. More than any other time in my whole life, I just want to take everything as it comes. I want to look forward to things in the short term – vacations, writing things, parties with my friends, celebrations with my powerful little family. Not much beyond that.

I feel that this is a chance for a new start for me. In this new Home, in this new phase of my life, I have several goals. One, to finally learn yoga. To be a kick-ass, focused mother to teenage girls. To be a great wife. And for me, writing. (Though I will work on being less wordy in my new house. Haaaa.) I want to learn, in my new home, to write my truth. I don’t always tell the truth, and that is something I have spent the past several years working to change. But it’s actually less about writing, and more about being the person I am willing to tell the truth about. I want to be the kind of person who lives a life she can tell about…mostly. (What fun would I be if you thought I had NO secrets? The secrets I will choose to make now will eventually be truth, and they will be…delicious.) But, seriously, when you think about writing that has touched your life, it’s has been writing that has had the ring of truth. You know it when you hear it. I am trying to ring true.

That will be my mantra for my new home, my new life. The years of Ringing True.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Fa La Freaking La, people. It is SO on. Christmastime! It's the most wonderful time of the year.

My eyes are bleary from tromping around the Natick mall tonight, but I totally accomplished my Mrs. Claus mission and got the exact Most Special Thing that Abby wanted, which is Ivy, the American Girl Doll, best friend of Julie, the first and only American Girl Doll that Nana got her for Christmas last year. Julie has been on every major family excursion, snuggled up beside her every night, spent her days on the bed with Cow-Cow, and visited Abby's third grade classroom any number of times. She was wrapped repeatedly in toilet paper for her mummy Halloween costume, had her hair done at the American Girl Doll store in New York City, and been dressed and undressed approximately 2,351 times. Julie is beloved, and needs her best friend.

I know they're expensive, but I know that this is the exactly perfect Most Special Thing that Abby wants, and she has proven that she recognizes and appreciates these dolls, and I am just so thankful that my ass-busting throughout this fall has yielded money that I can use to give my child exactly what she is dreaming of for Christmas.

I actually have a great deal more to say on that topic - on the whole idea of the ass-busting to gift-buying ratio, but that's a topic for another day.

Related, though, is the fact that coming up this weekend is going to be an Epic Gift Experience for my girls and my mom and me, a Christmastime in the Big City that will hopefully become the stuff of family lore for years to come. I can't write about it in advance, but I'll dish it all when we come back.

Life is pretty crazy right now. I'm trying to pack up my house, plan for our annual Christmas gathering, Mrs. Claus myself to the hilt, and write a play. But, you know...I feel so zen about it all. I'm not feeling even a little bit stressed. Should this be scaring me? I don't know. But it's not. And the lights are twinkling on my tree and LuLu and Gabriel, the elves that visit my daughters each morning, have already left their morning surprise (mini sticker books) and I came home tonight to see that Patrick had strung the lights on our pretty little front porch. So pretty and welcoming.

I sent out this survey this week and have been fascinated by how willing people have been to open their hearts and share their experiences with me. All different sorts of people from all different areas of my life, and I just appreciate them all so much. It's given me lots of inspiring stuff to use in my play, but more than that...it's reminded me again how connected we all are, how common the experience of loving someone, and what a gift it is to be trusted with parts of people's lives.

Okay. Sleepy now. Visions of sugarplums await.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Survey Says

I am writing a play about, among other things, awkward teenage experiences. I sent out a questionaire to my friends on Facebook to inquire into their connections to Shakespeare, and to ask incredibly nosy questions about their high school romantic experiences. I am deeply curious about all of them, and have absolutely loved the responses I had today. I'm still hoping for more, but my greatest discovery so far has been the absolute universality of Teenage Awkwardness. Despite the fact that I very carefully wrote my whole entire teenage life down on paper as it was happening, or immediately before it happened to insure that it WOULD happen, it was still far more awkward than romantic. More frustrating than gloriously joyful. But boy...when the joyful parts came, I was more than ready, and welcomed them with open arms...and awkwardly placed noses and intercepted notes and misunderstood comments. It was all part of the package.

The play deals with Romeo and Juliet, and as much as I admire the poetry of the play, I want to just slap the two of them upside the head. Really? Poison, Juliet? Married at 14 to a fickle boy you met like twenty minutes ago? Come ON. But still...one thing that chimes through is that teen love is without sense, without limit, and utterly without the belief that anyone can possibly understand the depth of feeling that pulses through your particularly hormone-laden veins. I had two boys that I "loved" in high school - one, unrequited, ill-advised, and really only created in my mind because he once danced with me to Frankie Valli singing "You're Just Too Good To Be True" under twinkling lights at the South Shore Music Circus. It was ridiculous, but I was Sixteen, and it was Time to Fall in Love. That was a disaster.

When I really truly fell in love, it was with the Boy Next Door, the one who had been waiting for me, who was right there all along, the one who...insert 80's romantic pop ballad song lyric here. But is was real and true and as deep a feeling as I've ever felt in my whole entire life. How lucky I was to have that, but how inevitable for a girl like me, born of showtunes and romantic novels, to have been blessed with such a relationship. Would I have taken poison for him? In retrospect, I certainly hope not. But had you asked me circa 1989 as he kissed me behind the lighting booth in the high school auditorium...hell, yes. And I would have offered my diary for the script of the teenage movie of the week that you could have made of the story.

So...while I am doing my best to try to make the script of this play as non-corny as possible, I will attempt to honor that other universal theme - that teen love is messy, awkward, embarrassing, laced with ridiculous moments and a particular delicious rosebud sweetness that never, ever comes again.

Below is the survey I posted, if you care to chime in.

My Dear Friends,

I am writing to ask a favor of you. I am currently working on a theatrical project for my high school, and I am seeking some very specific input. I am writing a play loosely based on the You’ve Got Mail/The Shop Around the Corner/In the Good Old Summertime formula of being in love with a pen-pal whom you actually despise in real life. It’s set in a modern high school, specifically in an AP English class working on an advanced study of Romeo and Juliet. I am looking for some perspective – both current and revisionist – about the experience of reading Romeo and Juliet in particular, but Shakespeare in general. I am asking you, if you are willing, to share your points of view. You can answer some or all of the following questions, or simply write back and say “No, thank you.” Either way, I hope that you will allow me to use some parts of your opinions in my play. I’ll totally give you all the credit.

The first few questions are about Shakespeare, but the last ones are about high school experiences in general, from the humiliating to elating. Again, you don’t have to answer all of them, but any little tidbits that you can offer will help to deepen the reality of the play. Oh, you can just reply here if you don’t mind sharing your answers, or cut and paste and reply to me privately in a message. Totally up to you!Thanks so much for participating!!

1. When you hear Romeo and Juliet, what are the first images that pop into your head, positive or negative?

2. Did you read Romeo and Juliet in high school? If so, what did you think of it? Has your opinion changed as you’ve gotten older? Did you relate to any parts of it? Did you really read it, or fake/Cliff-Notes read it?

3. If you read it in school, did you do any projects or writing activities in class that made an impression?

4. Have you ever seen a film or stage production of Romeo and Juliet? What did you think of it?

5. Did you ever use any aspects of Romeo and Juliet, or Shakespeare in general, to impress a guy/girl you liked? How?

6. If you are gay, did/does that have an impact on your experience of the play? How so?

7. Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play? If so, which one is it and why? If not, why do you think that Shakespeare did not connect to your life?

Here are the more personal questions:What is the craziest thing you ever did for someone that you had a crush on?

What was your first kiss like? Was it romantic? Tender? Awkward? Embarrassing?

Did you ever have a secret crush that you were afraid people would discover? Why did you keep it secret? Did you ever end up telling the person, or did you get caught in your feelings by anyone?

Describe a negative elementary school experience with a peer that stands out in your mind. Did you ever have a fight with a kid that made you absolutely vow to hate them for all eternity? Did you keep that vow, or forgive them later?

Anything else romantic or traumatic you would like to share? Names and circumstances will be changed to protect the innocent or guilty, but it might feel awfully good to purge the energy from that by seeing it enacted on the stage!! Thanks for your support, my friends.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey calling...

I woke up 5:00 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep. I'm not sure if it's my subconcious attempt to prepare for my Black Friday Shopping Mania (4:00 a.m. at Kohl's? Anyone else?) It could also be that, even though I'm not cooking this year, somewhere, in my sense memory of womanhood, there's a phantom turkey to be put in the oven this morning.

Instead, I'm on the couch, drinking coffee, eagerly awaiting the start of the Today show so I can watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day preparations, and then the parade itself as I bake cheesecake, prepare my little family for the drive to Patrick's brother's house in New Hampshire, and map out tomorrow's shopping route.

Very thankful for the sale of my house to lovely people, for my smart, healthy, brilliant children, for the many wonderful plans for the upcoming holiday season, for my loving husband, my sweet Mom, my magnificent friends, and a truly Wonderful Life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Power of "No, Thank You."

I said no to something today that I really wanted to do. I was offered an excellent job that I wanted to do so much, but simply could not fit in. It was so incredibly hard to impose a limit on myself, but in one way, empowering to at least find it in me to say no, thank you, to something.

I have a lot that needs to be done in the coming months. It's all good, good stuff. Creative and full of new beginnings and connections and light and positivity, but it's a LOT. My teaching partner in sixth grade (who I totally love, thank goodness), will often say, "I don't know how you do it all!" She doesn't see how much time I waste during the course of the day, how I find my down times and little mental vacations right in the middle of a crowded room. I have my own little coping mechanisms. And in these next months... I will work it all out, and my life and my family and my future will be all the better for it.

Tomorrow we are celebrating the signing of our P and S on our sweet little yellow farmhouse. It has been bought by a local couple, about to be married, who positively feel in love with the house. It's what I prayed for. We're going to Jordan's Furniture to start to dream, and to see the old Jordan Marsh Enchanted Village that they have restored. I am so looking forward to having time with my little family.

As I write this, a roast is in the oven, the laundry is folded on the bed ready to be put away, and the girls are rattling around upstairs. Abby is listening to Taylor Swift and Amelia is reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Life is peaceful in our little corner of the world.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pajama Done Day

Ooooh...It's a good one!

Slept till 8:30, put on my 1986 full-of-holes Hull High Music Theatre Presents South Pacific sweatshirt and my favorite pair of socks that I have been saving just for the occasion. Lit my Welcome Christmas candle and put on Elf. Patrick made me my favorite breakfast - burnt bacon, Killed Eggs (over hard and over done - exactly how I like them, and exactly as only he can make them), and chocolate chip pancakes. And a Bloody Mary...'cause it's Pajama Done Day. Andrea came and brought me an eggnog latte from Starbucks, and we watched White Christmas. Now Abby and I are curled on the couch watching some flimed version of The Nutcracker ballet while Patrick rakes leaves and Amelia makes a powerpoint about Browne Family Christmas Traditions. (Clearly, she's not the techno-phobe her mother is.) Upon her announcement of this intention, Patrick remarked, "Well, that's more proof that she's mine AND yours...she makes a powerpoint, but it's about Christmas."

I have been on this couch for five hours already, and I don't feel the tiniest bit guilty about it.

The show went great, strike was amazing, the headmaster of the school came to all three performances. The powerpoint went off without a hitch, no one had any fights, and beside yesterday's emotional breakdown in the middle of Amelia's Irish Step competition, (due to lack of sleep and the chaos of the place and the day), things went great. I slept like a freaking rock last night.

I am in full-blown Christmas mode now, no apologies. I am going to love the crap out of the next five weeks, even though it means packing up to leave my house forever - we sign our Purchase and Sale on Tuesday with a young, local soon-to-be-married couple, which is exactly what I prayed for. We're homeless for January and February, but I am confident that something will come through on that. We'll figure it out. We'll solve it amidst sleighbells and Rudolph movies and card-making and hanging ornaments and eating way too much chocolate and listening to the Carpenters and John Denver and the Muppets.

Pajama Done Day is the start of many wonderful things, and the end to something wonderful as well. What more could you really ask for in a made-up holiday?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Opening Night

They totally nailed it.

And I think that this was the single biggest bad-dress-rehearsal-to-good-opening-night jump of any show I have directed. The show they gave tonight was not even close to last night's dress, which had its fair share of train wrecks. Well, to be fair...I should really say train fender-benders. But still. It came a long way in just one day.

Evan, the boy who was going to be the Beast before he got in trouble and Matt took over, came to see the show tonight. Came in on a train from New York a half hour before the performance, and brought me two dozen red roses. Classy boy. I didn't write much about him in regards to the whole Beauty and the Beast experience out of respect for his privacy, but I will sometime. His story is well worth telling also. Matt's mom was there, and we gave her a birthday card for Matt that everyone signed. The roses that the kids all held in the finale of Beauty and the Beast were bouqueted on "his" chair, close to the stage where the kids could all see it.

Brooks (our tech director) had to tweak my power point fairly significantly (fixing in 15 minutes what it took me three hours to do last night) but...it totally worked. I missed one slide, and the screen didn't come down in time for the Muzzy bit, but that was superfluous anyhow.

So, thank you, Universe, and thank you smart people with technical know-how, and thank you Angel Matt for inspiring us, and thank you cast for doing us proud.

None of them read this, incidentally. But I'm feeling super grateful and wanted to give that shout-out.

It's midnight. I did the requisite director-is-the-last-one-out thing, had a 40 minute drive home in total silence, ran laundry and got Amelia all packed for her regional Irish Step competition, which she's going to in Rhode Island tomorrow with some else's mother. I appreciate that mom, but I wish I could be there with her. I made little gift bags for the girls to take with snacks and games and things, and I remembered both of her bathing suits for the hotel pool. Her socks and practice clothes are still in the dryer, and I'm killing that waiting time with a Fauxmopolitan, fried green beans left over from our last party, and this week's episode of How I Met Your Mother. Flannel pajamas, burning tired eyes, and a profound feeling of satisfaction.

Pajama Done Day...t-minus two and counting.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Humble Request of the Universe

Are you there, Universe? It's me, Kelly.

Let's have a little chat, shall we?

First of all, thanks for the offer on my house yesterday. And thanks for my healthy children and my nice husband and my sweet mother and the many blessings you have granted me.

But, Universe, let's cut to the chase.

As you know, I am a total techno-phobe. I am on a need-to-know basis with all things technology, from video cameras to the internet and everything in between.

I don't do slide shows, Universe. And because the best laid plans of mice and men did not pan out in the Chinese Translation system for Thoroughly Modern Millie, which opens tomorrow and which is NOT READY, I have just created my first powerpoint. First EVER, might I add, and because tonight was our final dress, and I didn't know I needed it, I missed my one and only chance to practice using this along with the dialogue and music cues.

So, Universe...my friend...here's the thing. These kids have worked very freaking hard. And everyone's tired and I'm three days away from an EPIC pajama done day, and I'm asking for some support, here. Please make this power point work the way it's supposed to. Every day, millions of office workers and teachers and...I don't know...lots of people...use slide shows and they come off without a hitch. Please let this one come off without a hitch.

Please don't accidentally flash up some forgotten porn from my hard-drive, or a journal entry, or photographs of my new house or an I.M. from someone on Facebook. Please synch up with the computer, and just do what you're designed to do. Translate Chinese. I will be sitting on a stool, eating way too many Starburst and praying and pressing that freaking space bar with authority. Just go with me, here, okay?

One very tired, very nervous high school theatre director will be eternally grateful.

Peace out, Universe. Let's be BFF, 'kay? Work with me on this one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday of Production Week

On the Tuesday of production week of a high school musical, everyone cries. It's just a standard rule of the business. Things that were perfect suddenly fall apart, the lead gets sick, the stage right wall falls over, everything runs incredibly slow and you don't have time for notes at the end...and you REALLY need to give some notes. That's pretty much how it goes. You try not to panic, but you know in your heart that it's really to late to fix everything, and que sera sera. But you're...disappointed.

Tonight wasn't like that. Tonight went really well.

And, sidebar...I have come to realize that if I were to tag topics in this blog, the whole "high school theater director" thing would come up a lot. I didn't know it would go that way when I started this, but I am realizing that that's exactly what has happened. I have a lot of other passions in my life, but a lot of them are too personal to write about. I don't say much about my marriage on this blog, though it could be a blog in itself. Really. But it's more than I want to tell you. And I was actually chastised for not writing more about my children, which made me feel both selfish and oddly assured. Selfish, because out of everything I am doing right now for "work" in my life, that is the most important. I am raising Little Women. It should get more "air time," so to speak. But assured because when I set out on this whole mothering road, I was determined not to let it be my only way of defining myself. I saw how easy it would be for me to shut myself off to all of the other parts of myself, and how unhealthy that would be for me. I don't think everyone does that, but I think that I would have been in danger of that had I not made a very deliberate choice not to do so. I'm kind of proud to know that regardless of how selfish it might seem, I am still a whole entire person, all my very own. That person writes about whatever is stirring her soul in that particular moment.

Anyhoo... directing. This blog has turned out to be the blog of a high school director. I sometimes think that this world...this little microcosm of the cast of Glee and the freshmen who know every lyric to Sweeney Todd, and the kids who put on tap shoes for the first and only time when they are 15...this world would make a cool reality show. Their little romances and their funny vernacular and their family conflicts and the way they leave it all behind when they show up the in the auditorium, the smell of which will always be the real smell of home. People would watch that show, and the Misfit Toys would have a whole bunch of people just rooting for them, and it would be a big burst of positive energy in the world. Kind of like that episode with the wheelchair kid from Glee. Couldn't have been cornier, but didn't you kind of feel better about the world after you saw that?

Anyway, these kids, my students who I only get for such a short time, are so brave, and so open to the world to get up on the stage and wear an awkward dress and try to tap dance in front of kids from the lacrosse team and kiss a boy, if they're lucky, at the cast party. I just love that they have this. I love that I get to be a part of helping to create it for them.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know about Matt. This Thursday, our opening night, would have been Matt's nineteenth birthday. And his mother, whose child has now left this world, is coming to see the show. That's how brave she is, and how much this thing that we do matters. The way she wants to mark his birthday is to come to see our little high school musical. We have a bouquet of roses that we are setting on a chair for Matt, and a card we'll sign tomorrow, and a variety of small, private tributes to him in the show. I hope that it will bring her some measure of comfort.

And so, on this Tuesday night of production week where everyone cries...some set changes were slow. The leading lady's dresses were ugly. The props weren't quite ready. But the kids showed up, and they strapped on their tap shoes and they had their little dramas and blew off their homework and had little surges of adrenaline and pride. I don't know what will happen in these next few days. I will do all that I can to help them feel as supported as possible, but then, when the lights go down, it's all them, and no matter what the theatrical trainwreck, it will be joyous. It will be exactly what it's supposed to be for each of them.

I write about this job so much in this blog because I feel so blessed by it. I have so many blessings in my life, some too big to express here...though I'm trying to chip away at some of it as I go along. I feel deeply stirred by my work, but it's that tiny degree of separation away from the big stuff that allows me to express something real and meaningful without giving too much away.

That's how I have found something of a balance between blogging and journaling. It took me a while to find, but I think I'm nearly there. Funny, though, because just that confession felt like walking the line between the two. To say that there's so much more than I can't tell you - good, bad, and ugly. I don't mean it to be a tease, but an acknowledgement that I'm still finding my way.

Stepping stones, though.

Thanks for reading about my students. And I kind of know that if you've read this, you're kind of rooting for them. It's just another way to send a little positive energy into a cause that's well deserving of whatever positive energy it can get.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Super Sunday

Large Coffee? Check.

Twizzlers and Pixie Sticks? Check.

A car full of props and fabric and other random crap? Check.

Migraine pills and Cherry Coke? Check.

Gnome pajamas pants and Christmas socks? Check.

A knot in my stomach and a list of to-fix moments fourteen miles long? Priceless. I mean, check.

Bring on Super Sunday.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Lengths to Which I Will Go for Corny Christmas Movies

I spent 45 minutes on the phone with the cable company tonight in order to fix my stuck On Demand service...aaaaaaand to order the Hallmark Channel. Don't judge me. It's Christmastime.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Glee...Told You I'd Like It.

I love this kid on Glee working to reach his F. I remember doing that for Into the Woods, and I earned it. I got the note I needed and I got the part. I got it thanks to Pete Fernandez, who mad me a warm up tape that I sang religiously from 8:15-9:00 every single morning for one entire January intersession while drinking my Weinberg’s coffee all the way to Plymouth Color. I have always appreciated that. I got to play Little Red Ridinghood in Into the Woods, and my life has never been the same. I learned that I could set a goal and achieve it. I learned that it was possible to experience the sense of belonging that you saw on 80’s sitcoms and in Judy Blume Books. I met Patrick. I let go of Chris. I wore a spectacular red dress to a banquet and saw friends in a goofy summer theater musical every single weekend for a summer. It was magnificent.

reminds me of that. I love this show...I know these people. Singing selections from “Wicked.” Amazing. They are so freaking good, and I LOVE IT. Wait… He cracked on the high F. I hurt for him. No, wait…he’s good, he’s okay. He did it for his dad. The wheelchair number made me weep - that choreography looks so freaking hard. Sorry…this is what happens when I watch TV alone. I have an entire conversation with myself. It’s only just recently occurred to me to post that publicly, and for now, it’s still very fun to do, and I am enjoying it. I have had several friends tell me recently to stop apologizing for blogging. I’m not apologizing right now...I'm just saying.

I’m feeling really tired but needing to write things out today. I am working on a list of things I know. I will not finish that tonight. ‘Cause one thing I know is… I’m tired. And I’m tired in advance for this week that’s coming. This is an absolute truth.

Ball Change.

Being Attentive

One thing about getting older that I have really liked is growing braver. I was always very afraid of everything growing up. Everything. I had no trust and my only sense of stability was tied to my mom, and to theater. Nothing else could truly really be counted on.

I feel less and less like that the older I get. I have come to realize that there’s a lot more to trust and believe in than I expected. I feel that there are any number of absolute truths in my life, things I can speak and know with complete confidence and authority. There are relationships and connections that I am so completely sure of. Loves that I’ve had that I know and appreciate completely. Love that I know now with my family and my friends that I am utterly present in, focused on, and appreciative of. (See how I ended all of those with prepositions? Totally meant to do that.)

I actually think that most attentive people feel the way that I do. I think, though, that sometimes people forget to be attentive.

Another thing I like about getting older? I pay much more attention where it matters.

I am making some lists tonight, and checking them twice. You should make some, too. Make a list of what you're thankful for, and be as specific as you possibly can. Balance them between the big things, like your health, and the little things, like chocolate covered cherries and chardonnay. go ahead. It'll be fun.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Production Week

This Sunday launches production week. Another openin’, another show. This one has been kind of funky from the start – the death of my student in September, all sorts of interpersonal adult drama, Swine Flu – it’s been pretty wack, actually. But Sunday is what we call Super Sunday, and we’ll all show up in our pajamas and rehearse for eight hours. Parents put out an amazing spread of food – bagels, fruit, tons of water, candy, perfect Buffalo Chicken subs about halfway through the day, and by the time I get home I’ll need seven aspirin and a Fauxmopolitan in a bucket. With a straw.

I want to slap myself for my childhood beliefs that Production Week is sooooo much harder on the actors than everyone else. Yes, it’s tough on them, especially with their homework and everything. But I swear, I will eat, sleep and breathe every single moment of this play from now until I finally get to Pajama Done Day. I will wake up in the middle of the night, repeatedly, and sit upright in my bed to declare to the cat and my startled husband that Colin really needs to be wearing a hat in the opening scene and I still haven’t hung the curtains on the apartment window and I forgot the light board op’s name in the program and do I have enough ushers for Friday night? I will burst into tears most days in my car as I haul ass up route 3 after my day in 6th grade, and I will call my mom at 7:30 every morning to tell her what a disaster it is so she can say, “You always say that, and it always turns out great.” (She’s usually right. Usually.) I will drink way too much coffee and will most likely find myself in the 24-hour Walmart at least once in the middle of the night to buy bobby pins and safety pins and last minute props – usually some sort of ribbon or faux flowers.

My friends will be supportive and amazing, and Andrea will give me some kind of rah-rah-you-can-do-it card, and Patrick will listen as I bitch and remind me about Christmas and put the girls to bed alone every night and come down and get me when I fall asleep on the couch in front of the TV, which will be the only way I’ll be able to calm my brain enough to fall asleep.

I wish I could find a way to do this differently. I wish there were some magical Non-Stress formula that would make me not care as much, or not worry as much, or be able to get more done in advance so it doesn’t all pile up at the end…but I haven’t found it yet. If I think too much before this week about the amount of energy I will need each day to cheer on my leads and tighten up the set changes and keep track of everyone’s schedules and not let the musical director make me cry…well, it makes me not want to get up in the morning. I just have to take it one day at a time, one moment at a time, and be grateful to my wonderful hard-working staff and the kids who are being as brave as kids can ever be and my friends and family for being so helpful and so gentle with me.

My high school director – my relationship with whom is blog-worthy at least and therapy-inducing at most – used to put things in the program like, “I love you, daughters! Don’t worry. Daddy will be FINALLY be home soon!” It used to make me so freaking guilty and angry at the same time. He CHOSE to be there. It was his JOB to be there. And I keep that perspective strong when I hit these crazy times. I choose this. I create this life for myself because I feel that it’s work worth doing, and I focus hard on never making the kids feel like I am doing them a favor by busting my ass. Yes, I do it for them, but I do it for me, too. I do it for the work. And I try to remind all of us as often as possible about how lucky we are to be engaged in something creative and fulfilling, and that the stress and the intensity is what bonds us, what makes the climb joyous and exhilarating and exhausting and utterly, totally worth taking.

And this time, especially, I’ll remember Matt, and how anyone in this cast might be a Matt, or might take a journey like his within this project, and that I never know when it might matter that much. I’ll work this week with his inspiration close to my heart.

Curtain up.

Crafting Plans

Roundabout this time of year, I figure out my plan for our family Christmas card. I have been making them myself since the girls were small, and it's the one thing I dependably create myself each Christmas. I always have great plans to craft like mad, but generally, I end up making one quick cross-stitch thing (usually made in my classroom after I've taught my 6th graders to stitch...one must show solidarity, after all.) I usually make one thing for the grandparents...last year it was "Compliment Boxes" which the girls decorated themselves with paint and stickers for each grandparent, and we all filled with compliments and words of appreciation. (I maintain that Oprah TOTALLY stole that idea from me on her holiday show last year.) The year before, we made board games of the girls and the grandparents with pictures and trivia questions and things. This year will be....well, you'll have to wait on that. Oprah might be listening.

Anyhow, back to the Christmas Card. Some years they've been fairly complicated. I once did a flip book card that made me want to shoot myself - they didn't get finished and mailed till Christmas Eve. This year, I had to choose something fairly simple because of the potential/ impending/ hypothetical move. Still, it will be made by me, it will involve some sort of corny poem and pictures of the girls, and I will put it together while watching the movies on ABC Family, and Lifetime Television, and the Hallmark Channel. Now I have to wait for the supplies I've picked out to go on sale at Michael's and I'll be in business.

Speaking of Christmas movies, last night we watched Snow and Snow 2: Brain Freeze. Couldn't be cheesier, but I am so ready. Tom Cavanaugh is the goofiest, cutest Santa ever. My very favorite is called The Season for Miracles with Carla Gugino and the husband from Boob Whisperer. I mean...Ghost Whisperer. (Which we are now boycotting because Patrick insists it has jumped the shark. Gotta say...I miss the nightgowns.) I am looking forward to the new Jim Carrey version of A Christmas Carol, but I might have to wait till Christmas Eve on that one. We have made it a tradition to see a movie on Christmas Eve afternoon...it makes the waiting for Santa a little bit easier to take. Of course, for the past two years the movie we chose might as well have been called Mommy and Daddy's Naptime because Patrick and I both slept through pretty much the entire thing.

I swear I won't post constantly about Christmas from now till December 25. But sometimes, you'll just have to indulge me. I tend to get very swept away.

On another note, Happy Veteran's Day. My husband marched in a parade this morning, and fired salutes at the graves of some Civil War soldiers. I'm thinking of my friend Doug, and my two favorite uncles, my father-in-law, and Ben Sherman, a 2006 graduate from Plymouth who just died this week in Afganistan. I appreciate this day off greatly, but I don't take for granted the reason why I have time to fold laundry and make barbeque pork today. Thanks and blessings to those who have served.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The End of an Era

We live in this very tiny house. I love my tiny house, but we’re trying very hard to sell it so we can move into a much bigger house, one that will meet the needs of this next phase of our life…one where two soon-to-be adolescent girls can have a room of their own, one where two authors - on aspiring, one already twice published - can have space in body and mind to create. And most importantly, one with two bathrooms.

We had a small gathering on Saturday night, one of many festive events we have held in this yellow farmhouse. There were many moments during the night where I looked at my friends, laughing, chatting, eating jello shots in the kitchen, and I felt the power of that energy so strongly attached to this home. A variety of toasts were offered through the night, to one’s new job, to another’s foray into law school, to a baby due in February and another coming in June. We have celebrated many events together, raised many glasses here. They assure me that we will bring that energy with us, that we will create more memories in the new house, and I know that’s true. But still…here we were Thirtysomething. Here we proved to ourselves, and each other, that we can still be sexy and sassy at every age, post-babies, or during, post-advanced degree, after twenty extra pounds and a bunch of disappointments and changing epochs in our lives. Our Forties, and everything that will come with them, will be celebrated elsewhere.

We had a decade of Fourth of July parties here. We put our tiny babies together in a kiddie pool under the big tree. Now, those "babies" run around the yard together of their own volition, collecting fairies or battling woodland creatures, quite oblivious to the adults relaxing on the back porch. We have had a decade of Faux Christmases, with Ben making it all the way through A Christmas Carol. (Ending two years ago with the memorable line, “And now I never have to come to this stupid party again.”) There have been awkward moments in events with friends fighting, or couples breaking up, or other under-the-surface drama rippling the energy, but that’s all part of what makes it so real.

We’ve celebrated lots of events in lots of places, and this is not to exclude any of the other gatherings we have. My friends are so welcoming, and we have so many traditions and events that we all look forward to. These are just my thoughts about having gatherings here. When I was a kid, I was never the one who had friends over. My dad liked things pretty quiet, and I used to long to have the house where people gathered. And now, four times a year, at least, my house is that house. Even though it’s tiny. Even though not everyone can make every gathering. Even though there is only one bathroom that any number of people have thrown up in (not everyone could be as skilled as to throw up off the back porch, as one notable girlfriend did during one Faux Christmas…and I laughed till I very nearly peed myself. It will be high on my list of Top Ten Favorite Westwood Road Party Moments.) Even though we have only one bedroom in which to fit sleeping babies and everyone has to get a sitter when they come to my house…they still come. They still dress up, or dress way, way down, they bring food they’ve made with love (and/or duct tape), they leave their Tupperware and sweaters and trays behind. But they come, gladly.

How I love my friends. How blessed I feel every single day knowing that if I ever needed something, at least a dozen people would drop everything to be by my side in a moment. And how I cherish the chances to have a whole bunch of them in my house, together, to ply them with liquor and to wax tipsy-poetical on how much they mean to me.

It was pretty amazing to realize that everyone who was at that party on Saturday was there because Dan Miller brought me to lunch at the dining common one afternoon in the spring of 1990. He’d sat next to me most of the semester in Prof. Knauf’s Reading Drama class, and on the last day of class, I had written on the bottom of a notebook page, “Will I ever see you again after this?” He wrote back, “I expect so.” (I still have that page, of course, taped in my journal.) He introduced me to his friends that day who were part of the theatre community at UMass, and to the rest is history. He left the next year for his year abroad with instructions to Christianna to keep an eye on me. That was nineteen years ago. I like to think that it was inevitable, that I would have found my way in somehow, that this tribe was waiting for me no matter what…but still…that was the way it happened. That’s how I met Nicole, which is how I met Patrick, and he brought us Sean. It’s how I met Bill Larkin, my ill-conceived crush on whom brought me to Janna, and Elise and Pete and Ben. Everyone else grew from there, and from other connections through theater over the years. Even Andrea, Single Hot Babysitter Friend that everyone tries to steal came to our group as a result of theatre. I could write a book on each and every one of these relationships, and little by little, through this blog, I have a feeling that I will. (So be patient, my friends. Your turn is coming, I promise.)

My oldest friend is, of course, Lisa, but my oldest friend of the people gathered last night is Dan Fishman, my buddy from my junior year AP History class. He’s now married to the girl who I first met when she taught me to put a condom on a banana in a public health program in my dorm common room. (That’s right. You’re welcome, Danny.)

We might get to have our annual Faux Christmas in this house, but I have no way of knowing that yet. I am sticking to my resolution of relaxing and letting the Universe unfold the plan. (Which is utterly unlike your very impatient blogger, who needs to know the ending of movies before she sees them.) So, it may well be that this trailer park themed Tramptoberfest will have been the last of our gatherings here. If that’s the case…well, what a way to go. Thanks, friends.

Friday, October 30, 2009


"There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”

―Linus Van Pelt

I will be waiting for kindred spirits tomorrow night in the most sincere pumpkin patch, admiring the glow of Patrick's jack-o-lantern, and stealing all the Kit Kats from my daughters' treat bags.

For today, though, I must endure the insanity that is middle school on the day before Halloween. Plumbers don't likely fear this day like I do.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brain Lint

I didn't meet my writing goal this week, which was for every other day for October and November. I officially forgive myself. Onward...

Another one of those nights full of random brain-lint...

I had rehearsal tonight, but when I got home, even though it was past their bedtime, I still watched Winnie the Pooh and the Halloween Heffalump (or something like that) with the girls. In the fall, there are three nights a week when I can't put the girls to bed, and I miss it. I miss them, and the quiet, flannel-pajama-clad snuggle time at the end of a busy day. I try to make up for it by watching Rudolph and Frosty a gazillion times in December, but right now, in the heart of my busy musical-directing season, that all seems so far off.

I got to spend two whole days with Craig this week, which was amazing. He can make me laugh till the wine snorts out of my nose. He is also an expert at crossword puzzles, card-tricks, speedy word-origin locations, touching the lights in my classroom (which rocks my sixth graders' worlds) and making me confront myself. In the best way. I am grateful for what we have recently realized is a nineteen-year-old friendship this December. I first met him pirouetting through a Greenough Hallway at UMass when I was hanging out with Pete, prepping for our Into the Woods audition. A half hour later, we were singing songs from Evita at the top of our lungs. It was love at first sight, and we've been friends ever since.

I also got to spend two whole days with Elise this weekend, visiting our favorite spots in the Pioneer Valley. We walked around UMass, peered into the Guild Office, shopped at Yankee Candle, bought bagels at People's Market, ordered Panda East Chinese Food into our hotel room, drank wine and Talked About Boys. It was the completely replenishing Fall weekend that we both so desperately needed, right smack now.

My show is coming along well, despite the various stresses that we've had in the process. On Tuesday we had one of those bumpy rehearsals where nothing was in the flow, everyone's energy was scattered, and nothing good was growing. I just sent them all home. Not crankily, but with the knowledge that whatever was tugging at them that night was more important than being there, running those scenes. And that's okay. Sometimes you've just got to listen to the group and go with it. As of now, we're in good enough shape to allow for that.

Halloween is just around the corner, and the girls are so excited. Amelia is being a Sorceress (not a witch...and yes, there's a big, magical difference), and Abby is being Penny from Hairspray. (Pulled THAT costume out of my ass.) In the afternoon, we're meeting my great big gang of friends and their kids to take the same portrait that we've taken for the past nine years - kids in their costumes, props askew, faces looking this way and that, but a portrait of a moment in time. The photo has gotten bigger as our little Chosen Family has, and we never quite know how they'll turn out. It's an adventure, though, and we warn the photographer in advance that the best shot will likely be the first, and no, we don't expect them all to be smiling at the same time, and yes, one or more will be crawling out of the shot at any given moment so just hurry up and TAKE THE DAMNED PICTURE! It's madness. It's perfect.

Many, many showings at our house these past two weeks. Someone has to want our sweet little farmhouse! I just don't know how they possibly could not.

I'm living hard right now, from the second I open my eyes at 6 a.m. till I finally get my sweats on at the 9:00. It's all for good, but I'm tired.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Word of Caution to our Neighbors

Dear People Staying Next Door to Us at the Campus Center Hotel,

I know there’s a Jay-Z concert tonight. I know that we are at UMass, affectionately known, still, as Zoo-Mass. I know we’re a couple of mom-age-ladies drinking chardonnay and eating Chinese food in our hotel room, in our pajamas, at 7:30. Yes, we’re scrolling our Facebook pages and talking about Boys while 60 Minutes plays in the background. Our party plans for tonight consist of a second bottle of wine and some cleansing face masks, if we get really crazy. You’ve headed out to your concert, and all’s quiet now.

BUT…If you come back from this Mullins Center Jay-Z concert and continue to blast your music, I swear to goddess, I will Karen Carpenter your ass into next Tuesday. Elise has her iPod and she is not afraid to use it. Jay-Z us and we will “Sing, Sing a Song” you at 6:00 a.m, which is when our sassy-mom bodyclocks are set for.


The Girls Next Door

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Mighty Pen

I am feeling so snap-crackle-poppishly full of epiphanies. I’m not sure where to start.

First, I felt reminded today that I HAVE to write. I’m having a surge of renewal of that truth today. What IS that? I actually don’t quite know. I have never quite known, but I do know that it is a strange sort of compulsion. Maybe we all have our compulsions, some worse than this one. I don’t know. I do know that nothing is ever real for me until I write it down. Nothing happens to me that goes unexamined by my pen. And I can’t think freely until I empty the noise from me with writing...just as it is with the Burning Ritual. I have to release my thoughts onto paper sometimes, even if they are temporary. Even if they are a tiny glimpse into my mind on the hop. I may totally disagree tomorrow, but here is where I am right smack now.

Sean and I were talking tonight about the concept of addiction. The only addition I can be certain of in my life is an addiction to writing. I am paralyzed without it. I am the girl laying in gray pajamas under dirty bedsheets watching the world with plaintive violin music in the background. It’s a dark place, and I’ve been there. But I learned that I have the power to draw myself out of that dark place, no matter how you got there, and that it was no one else's job to do it for you. You are built of the strong stuff. I sometimes regret the ease of my daughters' childhoods, because how am I ever to teach that to them? How do they learn fortitude?

I have more to say on that topic, but it's a subject for another day. For now, back to writing. Why I need it. I know it’s because it’s how I sorted through so much as a child. I am a very resilient person. Shit happened to me, the kinds of stuff they write self-help books to give you coping skill for. But I listened to my mother. “You gotta be hearty. A lot can happen to a body in this world. You gotta be hearty.” If I have inheirited any of that grit, I am profoundly grateful. If I have honed any of it in my life, practiced it, it’s only been because I could write my way from one end of it to the other.

I’m not alone. I’m not unique. Everyone has shit happen to them, and so very many of them way worse than me. But I am sensitive. And the big things that happened were deeply formulative then, as the big things that happen now continually shape who I am becoming. I live an overexamined life now. Imagine how deeply I studied my journey back then, when journaling, and listening to original cast Broadway albums, were really all I had to do.

This blog is very exhilarating for me. I don’t know exactly who is reading it, and I don’t need you to tell me if you don’t want to. But every once in a while, particularly recently, I’ve encountered people who confess to me, somewhat sheepishly, “I read your blog.” I swear, you couldn’t give me a more meaningful compliment. It’s wrapped in sparkly tissue and smells like those cinnamon pine cones at the Christmas Tree Shop. I have so often wondered if what is in my head is remotely worth reading to anyone else. It’s so worth it to me just to say it, but I wonder if it’s worth anyone’s nine minutes every few days. I just know that it’s loosening things up in me, and giving me confidence and enthusiasm and energy and propulsion. That’s a very high-energy-vibration way to be.

I like it here. Thanks for hanging with me. I would totally mix you a Fauxmopolitan if I could.

Friday, October 23, 2009


A real live quote from Abby in the car last night, while discussing whether or not actual fairies might come to her fairy-themed birthday party...next July.

"If I closed my eyes, and then opened them to see Buttercup Fairy sitting right on my lap, I would scream so loud and so joyfully that no one in the whole wide world would be able to stay asleep."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Don't even say it. I know it's not even Halloween yet. I try very hard to keep a lid on myself until at least then. I don't even sneak the Christmas music until at least the beginning of November, and I don't allow myself the first Christmas movie until Pajama Done Day after my musical is over. (Always Elf. Smilings my favorite!)

Somehow, though, this year, I'm having a lot of trouble with that. I'm already thinking about Chrsitmas way too much. Every time I scroll down the list of albums in my school computer to find something new-agey to play while the kids are writing, I keep seeing sparkly little Kristin Chenoweth looking out at me from under the mistletoe. I know that both of my favorite Christmas songs, "Do You Hear What I Hear" AND "The Christmas Waltz" are on that album, and it's full of the sound of giggles and the smell of cocoa. She taunts me in her turtleneck sweater but I've held off so far.

I really don't know how much longer it will last.

Last Sunday morning, I went to Target alone at 8:00 a.m. to get a rug for our bathroom. I wandered by the movie section, and there, right there, were all of the Christmas DVDs. I burst into tears right smack then, texted a picture to Andrea, and hummed all the way out of the store. I totally almost bought a Hallmark Hall of Fame one that I hadn't seen with the super cute guy from The Gilmore Girls and Supernatural. But I didn't. Not yet.

I know that my urgency this year has a number of factors. It's partly tied up in the fact that with this whole house-buying thing so up in the air, I'm a bit worried about where my girls will wake up on Christmas morning. It's also that things are definitely hitting that manic mid-autumn place for me where I'm totally overwhelmed with my show and the twelve-hour days and working weekends starts to take its toll. When I feel like that, and I have to go to my "Happy Place" to manage the 45 minute drive up and down route 3, I think about Christmas, and my plans, and my list...

But mostly, it's one great big simple thing. It's that I know, in my heart, that this will be the last year of Believing. At least for Amelia. Oh, she'll fake it for me, I'll bet, just like I faked it for my mom when I kind of figured it all out. And I can only hope that when she makes the big discovery, it will be a gradual understanding, like I had, rather than some traumatic earth-shattering crushing blow like other people have had. And Abby, I think, half fairy/elf herself, may go on to Believe for ever, just like I do to a certain extent. But my practical little Yankee Scrap is not quite like that. Right now, I think, she's still there, still believing, and I will hold so tightly to that for every second that I can.

I will make this Christmastime as full of magic and light and wonder as possible, despite moving, despite the other changes that might occur in all of our lives soon. It's not about "the day;" it never is. It's the whole thing...the whole season, the movies, the music, the elves, the random events with carolers and decorated trees and craft-making, velvet ribbons and colored lights...it's all of the trappings. It's the traditions and the feelings and the whole energy of Christmas. And yes, of course I know that Amelia can still cherish all of that long after the Santa part has run its course, but still...one more year. I know I've got this one more year, and I intend to make Magic.

Yeah, yeah. I know it's October. Bite me. I taste like peppermint.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dear Sixth Grade Boy. Again.

Dear Sixth Grade Boy,

Let's talk about farts.

Sweethearts, everyone farts. It is part of life. It could happen to you, and be your Worst Day of Sixth Grade, or it could happen in the car with your friend or at Mike's slumber party. But farts happen to everyone. You don't need to pull your shirt, bandit-like, up over your mouth and nose. It doesn't prove anything. You don't have to giggle and point, and make careful noises with your chair and your sneakers and the end of your book to prove that you Totally Didn't Do It. Just jump on over it and finish making your Mesopotamia Study Guide. This moment, like so many other ones that make you want to crawl through the floor, will soon pass. I promise.

I can't promise some obnoxious classmate won't comment about in your yearbook, but it will pass. Someday, a girl will still date you. I promise.

Unless you like boys. Which is totally okay, too. I have some excellent pamphlets you can read, and I'm here if you need to talk.


Your Teacher

And Speaking of Moments...

The following will be considered rated PG-13. Look away if that makes you horrified, but if it makes you say…eh. That’s tame for her…You might be disappointed.

If you’re somewhere in the middle…read on.

Okay, so…let’s talk about sex scenes in movies. You know how sometimes there are some reeeeaaallly hot ones? And I don’t mean pornos…I mean the ones they can show on regular cable TV, like this one that is on the Oxygen network right smack now. The Notebook. Think about Frisco and Felicia from General Hospital. And Robert Redford in The Way We Were. Richard Chamberlain in Joy in the Morning. Christopher Reeve in Superman II. Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. Captain Von Trapp…well, you didn’t get to see that, but seriously…he gave you enough to be able to imagine it.

Sometimes I see one of those kinds of scenes and wonder…does everyone experience that? Does everyone…maybe only once, or ten times, or a hundred times in a lifetime…get to feel that sort of surrender and connection? Maybe lots of people do, and if that’s true…it makes me feel really glad for the world. What a nice kind of world where so many people get to feel those things.

I was talking to one of my high school students about something having to do with New York City, and I related the story of a time when I boy I had loved danced with me in Grand Central Station one December, humming “our song” in my ear. Wait…maybe I hummed. But anyway…I couldn’t have scripted that moment better. It was a Perfect Moment.

I sometimes think that I have been so incredibly overblessed by Perfect Moments in my life. Really. Way way way more than my fair share. When I look back, though, through the ones that really mattered, the ones that mattered both in the moment and in retrospect…I feel like I ordered them up from the Universe, somehow. I read some, and I dreamed some up, and some completely surprised me. But every time they came…kisses on a grand piano, my first sexual experience set to the backdrop of The Sound of Music one New Year's Eve (and I swear I am not making that up), fireflies in an August field, making love to piano music while the rain fell on an autumn afternoon…I was so freaking grateful. I wrote about them, I remembered them and cherished them, and the moments just kept coming. They still do, which is one of the many reasons why I know for sure that I married the right person. Despite all of the other roads I might have traveled at the many crossroads of my life, I am still gifted with those moments, now, after so many years and so many ups and downs.

I even think about the scene in The Notebook when James Garner dances with Gena Rowlands…when she comes back to him through her Alzheimers for that brief moment, when they find each other and cling so hard…I can see that moment someday too…growing old and continuing to find those moments when they come, and appreciate them.

If they don’t, though, if I don’t live out the long life I am planning on, I have notebooks full of moments, very nearly all of the moments that mattered. If I didn’t write specifically about one, then I at least wrote about the context of my life where it was able to occur. ("My Mom took the kids overnight so Patrick and I could have a date. We had a fabulous dinner at Tosca...the stars were out...) I might not write specifically about the "dot-dot-dot" (althought sometimes I totally do...sorry, Girls!) I don’t even know if this makes any sense. I say again…I have been overblessed. Someone might be interested in hearing about them someday. They are stories worth telling, many of them.

Here’s a transitional thought: I have recently notices how often I use elipses and italics. One of my favorite books is by the author of Anne of Green Gables. It’s called Emily of New Moon and it’s the other side of my spirit. I sometimes think that my soul is a meld of four main characters from literature: Anne, Emily, Francie, and Annie from Joy in the Morning. With a smattering of Jo March and a splash of Generic Gothic Novel Heroine sprinkled in. Anyhow…Emily is constantly criticized for overuses elipses and italics. She says something about really wanting people to hear her writing just how she thought it. I am guilty of that as well. That, and Capital Letters used to Emphasize a Point. I rather like those.

Anyhow…moments of connection. They’re not all romantic. Some of the best have been with my friends. My dear, dear friends. I love my friends more with each passing year. They are my tribe, and my cup runneth over with moments around the chiminea, the phone calls where someone cries – the love and appreciation just jumping out of our eyes. The showing up at wakes and laughing on the back porch and babies and wishing each other Happy New Year and Merry Christmas and Mazeltov.

They don’t usually make movies about those moments in life, at least not as much. But you know what? They totally should. Since they don’t, the very least I can do is to write them down in my many spiral notebooks, acknowledge and appreciate them, and give my daughters…(granddaughters, maybe?) ...something to strive for. Closeness and love and friendship. Something to believe is truly possible…that your life CAN be a Broadway show, that you CAN write things that other people will read, that your tribe seeks you just as you seek them, that you CAN love, honest-to-Pete LOVE a person so much that you will almost daily find reasons to remember why you chose him…oh, that’s a gift. That’s a blessing.

And I swear to Goddess, if you are reading this, I wish that so very, very much for you, too. I hope you have that, or find that, or remember that, at the very least. Even if it only lasted for a moment or ten. I wish it for you, too.

You should totally write about one. Wouldn’t that make you feel good?