Sunday, August 23, 2009

Point to Ponder

The question is…when is the first moment you knew you were a grown-up?

Now, before you read mine, think in your head…what was yours? Even if you never considered the question before, consider it now.

Like most people, I suppose I could give a number of answers to this question. My first night in college. The day I eulogized my brother. The birth of my daughter. Wedding day. Graduation.

I think, though, that my first instinctual answer is the right one: my first day of my first year teaching. I had never before experienced that do-or-die kind of moment, where years of hard work and dreaming reached their pinnacle, and you were just…out there. That’s what I’m pondering this week.

I’m also going to tell the story of Mom and Auntie in Times Square (Yes, really), and I have yet to share about my reunion. Those are coming forthwith.

Today I went to Kohl’s all by myself for two hours and I looooooved it. I tried on 27 bras and walked really slowly through every department. In addition, I hung out with Patrick on the front porch. I played Rummy 500 with Amelia, I cleaned out my closet, I read some of my book, I made a chicken dinner, and washed and folded three loads of laundry. I watched Murphy’s Romance while I worked on the laundry and cleaned out several bureau drawers. Later we had family movie time, and I utterly shirked like four other things I really intended to do today. I’ll get to them tomorrow for sure. In the past weeks, I think I ran out of energy, and today I chose things that put energy in and took energy out, in equal measure. And being able to sit here now and write this while Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire play in the background and the ice crackles in my gin and tonic definitely pushes the balance to the sunny side.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

School Supplies, Take One

Today we went to Walmart to buy school supplies. The girls picked out markers and pencils and folders and notebooks, and at first, all was well. We've been spending A LOT of time together this month, the girls and I, which I look forward to all year, but which definitely gets wearing on all of us by this point in the summer. The fighting between the sisters is my number one greatest parental frustration, and I have tried many ways to try to make it better, ranging from literally shutting them in separate rooms - or separate floors of the house, 'cause our house is that small - to making them write lists of the things they love about each other, to shutting them in the SAME tiny room to just duke it out until they're done and silent. I am sure that in the years to come, I'll try a million more ways to encourage them to get along, and more than likely I'll come around to what the wise ones tell me, which is, "That's what sisters do."

Till then, though, I am all about aiming for peace in the house, or in the back seat of the car, or in today's case, the Walmart school supply section. After filling our cart with back to school necessaries, we reached the hoisery section of Walmart where I was looking for brown tights. There, the bickering began. "She pushed me." "She's pulling on the cart." "She moved my stuff." I ignored them, and looked at bras. "That's MY folder." "I was READING that." I gave a firm warning, then tried to find black hose in my size. "She PINCHED me." "She ELBOWED me." Then I said, "If I hear one more negative word from either one of you, every single thing in this cart stays here. You can start school without pencils, erasers, notebooks, backpacks... everything. And when your new teacher asks why you don't have these things, you can tell her it's because you were unable to be nice to your sister." Back to looking for tights, until...."Get OFF of me!" I still don't know which one said it, because in a wink I was striding out of the aisle, my brown tights in hand, to the register. I left the cart where it stood. (Sorry, Walmart if your job doesn't already suck enough, I just left more work for you.)

I don't know if this lesson will resonate, and I know that I will once again attempt to purchase school supplies for them next week. Hopefully, though, when I tell them that if I hear ONE MORE WORD then I will leave every item behind, they will believe me.

And come to think of it, at Mrs. Pepe's pool party immediately following this incident, they were awfully nice to each other. I won't kid myself that it will last, but it did make for a more pleasant afternoon.

If you're a mom who reads this, I insist you go to, and read yesterday's post about Mom Confessions, and then today's about Ways Momma Rocks. I'm telling you...both will make you feel better about yourself as a mother.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Coming of Fall

Joe Fox in You've Got Mail..."Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanto to go buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms. "

Oh, I love that line. A bouquet of newly sharpened pencils. Three weeks ago, I hurled socks at the TV when the back-to-school commercials came on. But now, the rhythym of my spirit is starting to hit its autumn beats. I will enjoy these last two weeks of home-ness...which I say as I sit in my bed drinking coffee with the Today Show playing in the background, knowing that our trip to the Magical Pediatrician this afternoon will include ice cream at Wilburs and a stroll around Scituate Harbor. I will try to be totally present in these moments and work hard at relaxing, but when those fifty small souls walk through my classroom door on September first, I know I'll be ready. And when my two small daughters walk through their classroom doors on September first, it will be with new backpacks and new sneakers and new outfits that they've tried on fifty times, just to be sure. They'll be ready.

And because I'm dorky like that, I'll tuck in a tiny bouquet of newly sharpened pencils with a little "Happy First Day of Third/Fourth Grade" note.

This summer, while not without its moments, has not been what I had hoped. I need to try to cram in as much quiet time as I can for the next two weeks, but I also need to find a way to work harder at embracing the leisure time when I can find in during the Busy Six Months of my life. That's my goal for myself, and for my family, this year. I would like to plan for some day trips to pretty towns, bikerides, walks through the pretty conservation areas around my town, and more time together. Here's hoping. Fall has always felt more refreshing to me than spring somehow, so I'm using this as a new beginning for some recent unhealthy ways of thinking and feeling. I'm in need of a fresh start and a clear perspective.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Catching My Breath

I took the girls to the beach today with Ellie and Ben. It’s a lovely beach, and totally isolated and quiet and clean and very sparkly. It’s owned by the historical society and it is, as far as I’m concerned, the best perqs of Patrick’s job, at least as far as his family is concerned. (Okay…the general flexibility is first, but the beach is a close second.) I find my daughters’ various qualities most heightened when they are negotiating in a group of three, which they frequently are. They are my Sun and my Moon, one bright and constant, the other mysterious and changeable. They are complicated and exhausting and enchanting and make me feel a kind of fierce protectiveness and tenderness and frustration that still, even after a good decade of this parenting thing, takes my breath away.

I make jokes about vodka, but honestly, after a day of feeling everything your children make you feel, and doing everything your children make you do, plus, you know…running a household or working at your job or whatever else you have to do on top of it all…how could one possibly settle down and catch one’s breath without a cocktail from time to time?

For dinner, I had tortilla chips, snow caps, and gin.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

(title of play)

Last night I saw Julie and Julia with my mom, and Andrea and her mom. Great movie, especially Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci, or course, but it got me thinking about a number of things. One, that I’m super lucky that I get to go to the movies with my mom, and that I really need to do that more. Two, it made me think about blogging. The woman who wrote the story was a wanna-be unpublished writer who decided to cook her way through the Julia Child French cookbook, and blog about the experience. It paralleled the story of Julia Child attempting to get that very recipe book published. I loved what it said about the growing pains of the creative process, and about the disappointments and bumps along the road that you need to manage and reflect upon in order to meet a goal.

I have an angel and a devil on my shoulder when it comes to writing in general and blogging in particular. I feel like I want to, and that I have stuff to say and some amusing experiences to relate, and then I feel like it’s totally self-serving and ego-driven and just really one of those things that people know about me and secretly think is incredibly obnoxious and egotistical. I often think about that – that my friends actually are highly irritated by my habits and behaviors much of the time and don’t tell me. I suppose everyone does in a way, and that everyone is a tiny bit right to worry about that, as a matter of fact.

So…blogging. Julie, the blogger, had all of these conflicts about not saying too much about her private life while being true to her “real” life. I worry about that as well. It’s all well and good to share funny vignettes about Mom and Auntie drunk at the gay bar (stay tuned for that one this weekend) and stories about saving real-live baby swans. But how do I express my frustrations about parenting and wife-ing and teaching and pms-ing without telling far too much?

I suppose I’ve said all of this before. Which leads me to my other challenge in this format…I still need to journal, and every once in a while what starts out to be a blog is forced to become only a journal entry because geeeez…I can’t say that to anyone. Or I start to journal about something tickling my consciousness and I think…maybe someone else has felt this way, too. Maybe it would make them feel somehow better to hear about it. But that morphing often makes me forget what I said aloud and what I only said in my journal.

It is my intention to become more focused on this. I’m about to start writing a play for my winter production at the high school I direct at, and I’m feeling really pumped about it. Since this blog was started in order to be a testing ground for what it feels like to be a writer, I’m going to take this new play and let it make me a writer. And I’m going to write about how it feels and how it goes. And maybe three people will be interested in all of it, and you know what? That’s totally enough.

“I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing.” My new favorite musical is called (title of show) which is a musical about a couple of guys writing a musical about a couple of guys writing a musical. I love it . Try it. I’m finding it very inspirational right now.

The working title of my play is Wherefore Art Thou? It's a modern two-act comedy set in a high school. That’s all I’m going to say about that right now. More to come.

Thanks for reading. If I could, I'd totally give you a cookie or a mini disco ball to hang from your rear-view mirror or one of those cute little troll dolls with pink hair. 'Cause I like you that much.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A triumph, a scuffle, a fright and a bit with a dog…

Bye Bye Birdie was a tremendous success tonight. The kids were so proud. The performance was adorable, the audience appreciative. Rosie got through her jitters and soared. Mae felt the theater zing today. Harry played the audience with eye-twinkling sassiness. Conrad got the crowd all stirred up and Albert charmed. Kim had fun, and finally was a pretty girl, mama. The ensemble sounded fabulous and the kids were all smiles. I was so proud of all of them, and tickled to have made a bright pink hat where there never was a hat. That was the triumph.

Our camp theme song is “We Can Be Kind,” cliché ridden treacle, but still moving to me. Abby had a solo in it, and she was terrified. She did a great job, but after she sang and was supposed to go back to her place on stage, she got into line accidentally instead. And so Amelia took it upon herself to push her into the right place. So Abby stepped back, so Amelia pushed harder, and Abby pushed back…in front of the entire audience. All the while singing “We can be kind…we can take care of each other…” And while I was very stern with Amelia for pushing her sister and not minding her own business, I so hope they captured that on videotape. That was the scuffle.

At the end of the night, just as we were beginning to wrap up and debrief, one of our parents couldn’t find her daughter. We all began to freak out, and called everyone we could think of. She surmised that she’d gone home with the grandmother of a friend, which she had in the end, but the grandmother had dropped the child off at a darkened house and not stopped to make sure she got in. She was alone at a dark house, age 6, and locked out in the rain. Um…next time be sure your kid knows the plan.

And a lady tried to get into the show with her dog. It was okay, though, because she’d bought a ticket for him after all. Yeah. The dog had to go into the car. It was okay, though, ‘cause we gave her the money back.

What happened from Monday to now is kind of amazing to me. How does it all happen? I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

Ha. Tomorrow is my high school reunion. Haaaahah. I have more to say about that but I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to say it.

Final Dress Rehearsal

So, here’s a funny thing. I create these little theatre productions. That’s my job. And not alone, of course…I’m always part of a team, and we work together and try to build good experiences for kids. Some seasons, it’s just a job. It’s a to-do list, part of my day, a task I do to earn money to go to Disneyworld and keep up my fruity martini hobby. It takes a lot of energy, and sometimes it’s more energy than feels worthwhile to me.

Other times, though, a production has a certain magic to it. It’s a sparkly little bubble of camaraderie, and warmth envelops everyone. I’ve been on both sides of that particular magic – within the cast, like in There’s Life After High School, and Bring Back Birdie, and Godspell, and Pippin. I’ve experienced it as a director, like in Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Midsummer and Once on This Island. This show, Bye Bye Birdie, has that kind of energy.

In my summer show this year, there have been kids that I have really connected with, supported, ignited, admired, and have felt on the receiving end of the same. That doesn’t always happen, to tell the truth. But when it does, I feel like I’m in the flow, and that it’s part of my soul’s mission to share these open connections with kids at very emotional times in their lives. I am humbled by that gift.

Yesterday our tech designer was trying to set a specialty light for Ursula. He had me stand in for the focus, and part of her blocking includes yelling “Oh, Kim!” and sliding tragically to the floor. I imitated her voice and her blocking, and Amanda said, “Kelly, you missed your calling!” My response was so immediate and so resolute. I thought, “No. THIS is my calling. Making the show. Setting the light, not being in it. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing, and it’s an honor to get to do it.”

This will veer into my new-agey way of thinking, but I often think of myself, and of many other people, too, actually – as a vessel. Things need to be done in the Universe and different people are given the hands to do different tasks. I look at people who have a certain set of skills, and then use those skills to actually do something, make something happen, and I think about Buddha teaching how to be the best person in the world. Everyone can be the “best person in the world” if they do the best they can with what they have. If they try to do what’s hard for them as well as what’s easy, and try to do no harm to others. Doctors and carpenters and environmentalists and the people who collect your trash and make sure your sink is running and make really funny movies and serve you a spectacular meal. If you do what you can, and do it well, you’re the best person in the world. (I’m sure any Buddhist I know would be appalled at my simplification here, but that’s how I explain it when I have to teach it to sixth graders.) By that definition, I know so many of the best people in the world. I’m trying to be the best I can by doing the thing that I can do.

So, anyhow, back to being a vessel…the Universe, in my opinion, works through people to allow for choice and growth and learning and love for others. It’s true of parenting, and of being a sibling or a good friend or a mentor or part of a challenging relationship. All of those things help people grow. And for reasons I don’t totally understand yet, theatre is a thing that brings those opportunities to light. Friendships are forged, vulnerabilities are heightened, romances bloom and mettle is tested. People who are involved in theatre as high school kids often have their first kisses and their first crushes and their first heartbreaks and their first real sense of belonging, sometimes smack in the middle of a rehearsal while the rest of the cast drills a dance combination. Relationships that happen in that setting gain their own particular fresh-paint-scented, sequin-dappled sweetness. In fact, I can’t actually think of one important relationship in my life that wasn’t created through, or at least deepened by, my involvement in theatre. Huh. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

Bye Bye Birdie, with 88 kids between the ages of 7 and 15, will open tomorrow. It’s adorable. They are adorable, my two curly-headed, bobby-sox clad daughters among them, and so excited and so full of fun and joy about it. I love this cast, a core handful of them in particular, and I’m so proud of them and delighted to know how much fun they’re going to have this weekend, and how they’ll remember it forever. They have grown so much in poise and commitment and recognition of how freaking much fun it is to be part of a show. They will forever have connections to each other and branch out into other friendships they wouldn’t otherwise have made just from having known one another. We’ll all cry to say goodbye and recognize that it’s an end of something and a beginning of something new.

And we’ll know that because Maria told us so in The Sound of Music. “Whenever the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” We live by the Gospel according to Julie Andrews and Sondheim’s Seven Principles of Relationships. To varying extents, we are Theatre People. Dorky, way too extroverted, passionate, awkward, self-obsessed and open-hearted. Dreamy, freak-flag-flying little lambs lost in the wood. I saw a new mom recently with a t-shirt that said, “I make milk! What’s your superpower?” My super power is that I am a Shepherd, gathering these lambs together and saying, “Look! Here’s another just like you!” Now, sing a song about it. Hold hands and sway.