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 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'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 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?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why This is a Perfect Moment

Patrick just put an apple pie in the oven.
Amelia smells like apple shampoo.
Abby is dressed like Penny from Hairspray.
My work for today is done.
The wind is howling outside, and we are here, together.
An autumn leaves candle is burning.
Spaghetti sauce is simmering on the stove.
I am wearing my coziest sweatshirt.
Ginger is snuggled up on Amelia's lap.
Tomorrow's work is still a day away.
I have a brand new red coat that Patrick said looks like Mary Tyler Moore.
I have a heart full of gratitude for my daughters, my husband, my home and my life.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mind on the Hop

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.
How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?
For the moment passes, it is forgotten;
the mood is gone; life itself is gone.
That is where the writer scores over his fellows:
he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.

~Vita Sackville-West

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


You might not watch it. And that's okay. And it's not flawless - I hate the lying pregnant wife, and everything is far more stereotypical than it needs to be.

But still... a whole TV show about the Theatre Geeks of the world...the disenfranchised, the trying-to-find-a-place-in-the-world Misfit Toys, the thoughtful but misunderstood artists...I am so into them. I am them...a whole bunch of them. I identify with the teacher the most, of course...the one who was once the big fish in his small pond, and who now wants to see kids reach their potential and have a place to connect and belong. I feel like the characters - all of them, even the psycho cheerleading coach - are bits and pieces of every person I've ever known in my various careers.

And Patrick will watch it with me for the hope of dancing cheerleaders, and really...that's about the most I can ask of a red-blooded heterosexual husband.

It doesn't matter that the plots and the musical numbers are not entirely realistic. There are glimmers of truth to it. What matters is the fact that from time to time, I walk into rehearsal, and some random kid is playing the piano and seven others are singing along. And two kids wear gold lame dance shorts and pink tutus to auditions...for no other reason than it's FUN to do so. They know the lyrics to Hair and Spring Awakenings. My kids...they spend their days watching the clock till it's time for rehearsal. They read the liner notes in their cast albums and they endure algebra only because it's the class before concert choir. I know them. I was them...and still am, in my own way. That population exists, and is inspired and determined and desperately in need of therapy, and singing showtunes about it. We all have our tribe. I found mine long ago, and just keep on finding reinforcements, recruits.

On another note, tomorrow is going to be an Unhappy Day, vampire-wise. I am going to try to stay in a place of strength and confidence, and know that my aim is pure and my focus is where it ought to be.

On yet another note, I fell in love for the very first time exactly twenty-one years ago today. I know that I'm not strictly "supposed" to remember this anniversary and mark that as significant, but I still do. So sue me.

On one final note...let's call this one b-flat...I am really, really, really happy right smack now. Hope it stays this way.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Alpine Slide

Do you ever have days when everything just requires more energy than you think it should? There are days when my alarm goes off in the morning, and all I can think of is the fact that I can’t possibly do all of the things that need to be done between now and when I can be under these covers, with my head on this pillow, again.

And I am young and healthy, as well as reasonably industrious and inspired. If I feel that way, how do people do it when they have other issues complicating the matter? I don’t even know.

It’s lucky, though, that when I’m having one of those days that drains my life essence to be able to sit down, watch random shows on TV – currently one about the curse of the Kennedys – and just relax. Relax in body and spirit.

What’s the balance supposed to be, I wonder? What’s the fine line between industrious and exhausted, between contributing to the world energetically and spinning needless wheels? Somewhere along the way I came up with the practice of Vacation Moments. Making the most of what you’ve got while you’ve got it, and finding your places to actively choose Relaxing. I think a lot of it came from my mom, who instinctively understood that a cup of tea and General Hospital was really the cure for pretty much anything that ailed you. She knew that having that to look forward to could definitely help you survive another 8th grade gym class volleyball game and math class with Gary Schofield. Now, it can be the Indigo Girls and a caramel latte in the car on the way to rehearsal. Or the time mid-day where I make my students read for a half hour and I just read along with them. It’s sacred. Or this. Sitting on my couch, watching last week’s Glee on my DVR, a festive beverage beside me, and my cat purring at my ankles. You just have to recognize the moments, love them when you find them. And the more you do that, the more often you find space for them in your day, and your week, and your life. There’s room for all of it, if you choose it. It’s my own little celebration of the Law of Attraction.

I made a writing goal for myself, to publish on this blog at least every other day from now until Thanksgiving. So far, so good. I’m three blogs in two days. (And yes, they do accumulate.) I have no idea what they’ll be about, but I am committed to the goal. I have always worked best under pressure – from the days of Mrs. Kellem’s English papers to lessons prepared the morning of to entire song and dance routines made up on the fly. Everything gets energy and attention when its turn comes. Right now, in this choppy-blue-sea phase of my life, writing is getting its due, even though there are other things out here with me. Its time has come, and it brings a lot of good energy with it. More journaling, more perspective, more connection with the people I love who read something and reach out with a “Yeah…me too…” from time to time. That’s all so inspiring, propelling me forward through this journey I’ve always wanted to take.

This summer, I was so super excited to ride an Alpine Slide, down a mountain, on a perfect summer’s afternoon. I researched the place and the time, the cost, and organized the whole plan during the summer camping trip with my best friends. We waited in line, feeling grimy from not having showered, and cross from sleeping on the ground, and finally rode the chair life to the top. One daughter panicked, the other insisted, and the latter went down the mountain safely settled between Sean and Andrea.. Abby had to be comforted, and sent back down in the chair lift with Daddy, glad to be heard and glad to be in his arms. They had a lovely ride together. I climbed onto my strange little sled thing, very trepadatious and feeling quite alone. I decided to just enjoy the journey – Amelia was fine, Abby was fine, I could just go for it.

But a very little ways down, my sled got stuck. I kept thinking…I’m too big to be riding on the sled. I hope Amelia didn’t get stuck. I hope that Andrea and Sean helped Amelia if she got stuck. Am I allowed to get out and walk? God, remember that time Chris accidentally made me ski a black diamond on my second skiing run ever? The woman behind me began yelling at me to go, move, get out of the way, she was going get hurt…I kept yelling back that I was stuck, I was trying, I was doing my best…finally, the sled began to move, but I was so shaky that it was hard to feel safe to just let go and slide the rest of the way down. I was going too slow around the corners, and I could hear the woman behind me saying to her son, “Sam, just go. You shouldn’t have your ride ruined too just because she’s in the way…” Yeah. Humiliating. And I was thinking about a grandson and granddaughter I had earlier noticed sliding down as I rode the chair lift up. I could only hope that that grandfather, following and safeguarding his little pigtailed sweetheart down the mountain did not have a shrewish woman screaming at him, too.

Why has that stuck with me? Why did it rattle me so much? It was a violation, that’s why. It was something that was supposed to be pure and joyful and fun, and it was crushed by someone who had her own particular set of “issues” that needed to be appeased, and I was the target.

I mention this because I am currently in a very similar life- situation, and have been for a long time. I have had someone on the slide behind me, criticizing me for my driving and draining all of the joy from the journey. I’m speaking up, though, and I’m hollering back, over my shoulder, while focusing on the journey and trying to enjoy the trip. It’s one piece of my life right now.

I have so many other wonderful things in my life – a husband who supports me, charming and healthy children, amazing relationships with beautiful people, and a general belief that it’s all going to turn out swell. “Blow a kiss, take a bow, honey, everything’s coming up roses and daffodils…” (Puh-lease. Like you didn’t see the showtune coming.)

To wrap up the metaphor, despite the challenges and uncertainties, I’ve got to keep my eye on the track. Many things are in front of me, but writing every other day is there amongst them. So far, so good. Thanks for reading.

Reason #342 Why I Should Have Been Plumber

I just taught and entire hour-long lesson on the Holocaust and the history of Nazism with my fly down. And no, I'm not wearing a really long shirt. And no, I wasn't just sitting behind my desk. I was standing, in front of the world map, gesturing wildly and emphatically with my sparkly golden pointer, and and, evidently, my shiny silver underpants.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Random bits of flotsam, in which you very well might not be interested...

I wonder if this is what my journal sounds like. I wonder if, when people ever do read my journal and find these blogs interspersed in real time in context, they will see that this is really me. Or am I just being that "slice" of me that I wrote about the other day? I'm trying to get closer to true all the time. I think I'm making progress.

I love nerds. I love being one, and I love finding one. It's very treasure-huntish.

I am very blessed in my in-laws. My father and mother in law are loving and generous people, and I am so lucky to have them. They appreciate my daughters and are active parts of their lives, and they are grateful to Patrick and I for giving them grandaughters and raising them well. That's a wonderful thing.

My friend Jamie marched for Equality in Washington DC this weekend. I have a friend who went there and did that. I have a friend who fights to make the world better, safer, kinder and fair-er to every single one of us. The least I can do is to speak up here, where I am, to send messages of love and acceptance to everyone who will listen.

And, while I'm on the subject, I have people who will listen. Children. Yikes. Sondheim warned me that this might happen.

I had a very intellectual conversation with a mother at Friendly's this evening as our Irish Stepping daughters drank blue soda at the table behind us. We were musing on the world our children will grow into, full of all kinds of people. My kids don't know a world where people are not considered equal, now or ever. They think nothing of the fact that our President is black and their Uncle has a boyfriend and a woman can be president, too, and almost was. People are just people. And while I know it might be true that THAT is "my world," and maybe not the world of some kid growing up in some Bible-belty southern state, it's still the only world I intend to teach them. They'll find the rest of it soon enough.

The winds of change are really a-blowing. I feel like so much is happening, or about to happen. I felt like this a lot in college...that you could wake up one day and be someone different than you were the day before. I sort of feel like I've been missing something in recent years by forgetting what that felt like. Maybe I could have been experiencing that all the time, and I didn't pay enough attention to it. I think it's more likely that I was experiencing a whole bunch of other stuff at the time instead, and it's kind of impossible to pay attention to everything.

My friends surprise me a lot. They always turn out to be so much more than I even gave them credit for, and that's saying something, because I give my true friends a lot of credit. I admire and value them. Sometimes, though, one of them will say or do something that I find brave and fantastic, and I will feel kind of awestruck by them, and humbled to think that they like me. I have had that happen a lot lately.

Ewoks were a stupid idea. Seriously. Who ever came up with that?

It's been a lovely long weekend, and I feel quite renewed. But there are big things coming for me, for us, over the next few weeks, and I walk in an air of possibility. Invigorating, but also disconcerting. I'll need to write my way through it all, because it's the only way I've ever known how to do anything. To write my way through it. I'll see how much I can actually share.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Just a Moment in the Woods

It's funny how quickly I felt guilty for posting about psychic vampires. I really, really meant it when I wrote that, and then, quick as it takes to hit "publish," I thought, oh...that's not nice. And you are supposed to just be nice. So, I type up song lyrics that are very nice, and also true of me, but only one tiny little shade of the truth of me. And I'm not saying this because I'm so particularly "deep." I think everyone thinks it in their own way. We all think about what we are supposed to be from another person's point of view, and it affects how we behave. We all have parts of ourselves that are reserved for different situations, different kinds of relationships.

And if you're really, super lucky, you meet some people along the way who actually see really significant pieces of you, bunches of them, and like you anyhow. And if you're incredibly, off-the-charts blessed, you actually find a true love...or sometimes a couple of loves in a lifetime...and can show...well, pretty much all of yourself as you know it right then.

But then you change a little, and you see new shades come through. If you are past blessed, but more like angelically annointed, you choose to share your life with someone who grows with you. Who eventually searches his heart and come to the conclusion that he's just all in. Whatever it is...bring it on. He's still going to be here.

I have found myself in this very significant time of change. Very recently, but I sort of know I really saw it coming. It had some false starts, but there's definitely an evolution going on in my life. Anne's "bend in the road," and Emily's "epoch in my life." I do rely on certain vernacular for feelings like this. The little times of enlightenment. I can actually say that when I look back through the important events and epochs of my life, I knew them when they were happening. I called every one. Some of them are dumb, childish. Still true, though. When I turned 16 and met a boy called Fred and invented an entire universe around it. 'Cause it was time. 'Cause there were show tunes for that. And when I fell in love with Chris when I was 17. 'Cause he had been there all along. 'Cause it was meant to be. 'Cause there were showtunes about it. My semester of student teaching. 'Cause it was my destiny. 'Cause I could go on out there and Make a Difference. 'Cause there were definitely show tunes about that.

There were lots of those. Moments of recognition, I mean. Some of them involved love, like those, but others were related to friendship or work or...well, lots of things. Reading a really, really good book. A fabulous dinner and a lobstergasm. You know. Moments.

Whoever you are who might be reading this...and I've discovered that I actually don't know who you are...I hope that you, too, have had some of those moments. Moments where you knew that who you were after was different than the someone you were before. I've had loads. And I hope it doesn't sound like bragging, because I really hope YOU have, too. But I have had loads of those moments, and I carry them in my heart as treaure. And I KNOW there are showtunes about that.

Rambling McTalksalot. I just watched Jim and Pam's wedding and I'm too excited to sleep.

Oh, if life were made of moments, even now and then a bad one!
But if life were made of moments, then you'd never know you had one.

When Fall Comes to New England

My favorite "fall song" by Cheryl Wheeler:

When Fall comes to New England
the sun slants in so fine.
And the air's so clear you can almost hear
the grapes grow on the vine.
The nights are sharp with starlight
And the days are cool and clean.
And in the blue sky overhead,
the Northern geese fly south instead
And leaves are Irish Setter red...
When Fall comes to New England.

When Fall comes to New England
and the wind blows off the sea,
Swallows fly in a perfect sky
and the world was meant to be.
When acorns line the walkway
then winter can't be far.
From yellow leaves the blue jay calls.
Grandmothers walk out in their shawls.
And chipmunks run the old stone walls
When Fall comes to New England.

Frost is on the pumpkin, the squash is off the vines.
Winter warnings race across the sky.
Squirrels are onto something and they're working overtime.
The foxes blink and stare and so do I.

'Cause when Fall comes to New England
Oh, I can't turn away.
From fading light on flying wings,
A late goodbye a robin sings,
and then another thousand things....
When Fall comes to New England.
When Fall comes to New England.

Psychic Vampires

Do you have one? It’s a person who drains your life essence and makes you feel exhausted, diminished, depleted and dark. Whose very presence in a room is enough to give you shudders of insecurity, self-doubt and those little-kid tear pricks in the corners of your eyes?

I have one. And try to be like Lisa, who finds a way to have compassion with everyone, knowing in her heart that we’re all fighting our own difficult battle. Or like Ellie, who can ask of everything, “What’s the lesson in this?” and see the value in even the most frustrating challenges. I try.

But mostly, I want to rip his freaking face off. I want to pitch an old-school, knock-down, throw-myself-on-the-floor fit and scream at the top of my lungs, “Get out of my effing life!”

But I don’t. I remain polite and professional, and send my patient husband scathing emails in which I rail against this vampire, him mother, his neighbors, his dog, his neighbor’s dog, and anyone else who might have contributed to making this person the soul-devouring succubus he is to me.

I am sure he has nice qualities. I don’t care. I am sure he was a cute baby. I don’t care. All I know is that I have to come armed to the hilt for my interactions with him bearing power-mantras, rose quartz, one of those spiked wrist-things, a chocolate chip cookie, Jerry Herman songs, and mace, all wrapped up in a shiny pink Glinda bubble of protection.

Sigh. It makes me want a nap.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned in...

It's funny how quickly things go back to "real life." There's an opening number to be taught and polished, harmonies to master, and lines to drill. The show must go on.

I'm thinking tonight about big picture stuff...karma, and the mysterious workings of the Universe that bring us all to where we need to be, just when we need to be there. There are a variety of big doings afoot in my life right now. Winds of change a'blowing, and I'm feeling the flow of that.

I taught a lesson to my kids today on the Robert Fulghum essay, "Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." Play fair. Put things back where you find them. Take time to draw, play, work, dream, laugh and build every day. When you go out into the world, it's best to hold hands and stick together. Then I shared the poster in my room called, "Everything I Need to Know about Life I learned from Star Wars." Do, or do not. There is no Try. Anger and aggression are the path to the dark side. When on the path to justice, the force will always be with you. As you might imagine, their job now is to create their own Credo. Here were some good ones that they created:

Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned from Baseball: When you're close to your goal, sometimes you've just gotta bear down and slide. Listen to your coaches when you're heading to second - you don't want to overrun. When the count is 3 and 2, sometimes you've just gotta swing.

I know. Sixth graders rule.

We had Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned from...Harry Potter. (It's your choices that prove what you truly are, far more than your abilities.) Fishing. (If it's not up to par, sometimes you've got to throw it back.) Gardening. (You've got to wait until the fruit is ripe to pick it.)

Mine is, of course, Musical Theatre. If you forget the steps, smile big and keep going. When in doubt, waggle some jazz hands. Bit by bit, you're putting it together. Sometimes the best ending is just to hold hands and sway. Sing out, Louise! Smile, Baby! Everyone loves a jazz's a crowd pleaser.

We all have our little Credos that get us through and help us to move through conflicts and honor important moments. I also taught the kids the phrase, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Maybe eleven-year olds are not quite old enough to put much energy into examining their lives...but then again, if not now, then when? If they get into the habit early of living mindfully, reading metacognitavely, relating compassionately...won't that ease their way a little bit later?

I don't know the answers, but I sure feel inspired to ask the questions.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sweet Saturday

I have a Saturday that will be spent shuttling Amelia to Irish Step, walking through the mall, visiting the craft store and the Halloween costume store, and climbing Laundry Mountain. I will listen to showtunes in the car and enjoy the sound of the rain on the sunroof. I will make cupcakes for Amelia's Irish Step party tomorrow, and this evening, we'll have the potroast that I've just put into the crockpot and the Toasted Head chardonnay that's chilling in the fridge.

Today will be a good day.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Tale as Old as Time

Today was the "Celebration of Life" for Matt. It was a very intense day for a whole variety of other reasons, and my plan for the evening involves Fauxmopolitans, eating my feelings in the form of Patrick's famous Orange Chicken dinner, and doing a sage smudge to clear my aura of the many, many energies that are clinging to me tonight.

Below is the text of my speech about Matt today. It went just fine. Many of his friends and teachers spoke, and the ceremony was lovely. My favorite speech came from one of his teachers, who said, "If you miss Matt's smile, then smile. If you miss Matt's laugh, then laugh. If you miss the love he showed you, reach out in love and friendship to someone else. In that way, Matt lives in you." Lovely.

Before I wrap this up, I would like to say that I can't possibly express the sheer "specialness" of this person to people who don't know him. It's not merely the tragedy of losing someone so young. It's the tragedy of losing this very particular, singular, unique and magical person.

Thank you to all of you, my friends, for your support and kindness during this. Next week, there will be some other things to talk about.

A Tale as Old as Time

I have been told that sometimes the inner workings of “theatre people” are mysterious and strange to others. I accept this, and so in order to tell you the story of Matt’s amazing performance Beauty and the Beast, I will try to speak in a more universal language.

Remember in 2004 when the Sox were down three games against the Yankees, and the only possible hope of salvation was to stitch Curt Schilling ankle into that infamous bloody sock? That’s what we did to Matt, and not only did he lead the team to victory, he created a Hero Legend that will be told in years to come.

When the situation occurred last year that required us to find a new Beast, Matt was the first person we asked. “Hopefully it won’t happen, but if we have to have someone new, would you be willing to do it?” He said no. No, because it wouldn’t be right to do that to my friend. No, because I would be too afraid I would mess up and let you down. No, there are too many lines, too much music. No, because you already gave me the part I really wanted (which he called Creepy Asylum Dude.) I told him that I respected that, but would he at least just think about it. He said he’d think about it, and that he wanted to talk it over with his mom. (Which was maybe the sweetest thing I’d ever heard.) Meanwhile, just in case, suggestions were made that I seek out a professional, someone from my extended theatre community who knew the part and could just step in so the show could go on as planned for everyone else. That was our last option. I wanted the kids to have the message that we, as a unit, as a team, could solve any obstacle that came our way. We would manage, together.

Several days later, when we had clarity that we would have to replace the Beast for sure, I pulled Matt aside, and shared my baseball metaphor. “You can do it. We all believe in you. If you do this, you will not be the same person afterwards. You will have proven to yourself that you can do one of the hardest things that anyone ever has to do in life - to be completely, unselfishly brave. To put your heart and soul out to the world. To focus on the goal - saving our show - and face and overcome your fears about yourself in the process. If you can do this - and you CAN - you will forevermore know that truth about yourself. It lives inside of you, Matt. We can see it, and you can trust all of us to be with you on that journey.”

He said yes.

Mr. Richins spent an entire day with Matt, teaching him all of the music, helping him to embody the character in his voice. Pam, Emmy and I drilled blocking and choreography. Grace and his mom helped him learn lines for two days straight. We had planned to have a prompter hidden on the set for him, so he would have that security at all times that he wouldn’t drop a line, “mess things up.” as he feared. By the second dress rehearsal, he looked at me with that lopsided grin of his and said, “Ms. Browne…I got it. I’m all set.”

If you were here for the opening night of the play, perhaps you remember the sold out crowd. Perhaps you remember the standing room only students and parents lining every wall of this auditorium. Maybe you remember the fabulous dance numbers, the splashy costumes, the wonderful voices Emmy and Colin and our whole ensemble. But if you were here, you most certainly remember Matt. At the end of act one, when the Beast has lost all hope, he sings a deeply emotional song, slams the door of his castle and the curtain comes down. The roar of applause and cheering that erupted from this auditorium, even before his last note was finished, was breathtaking. The entire audience rose to its feet. That cheer was the Big Bang from which every future performance in this place will originate. It rings here still, especially today.

At intermission, a friend of mine friend pulled me aside and chastised me for breaking down and hiring a professional to play the role instead of the student I had told him I wanted. It was a student, I promised him. It was our Matt. Another director friend said that his was the single best high school performance of anything she had ever seen. “He learned it in a week,” I told her. “Liar,” she responded.

Matt’s success as the Beast is not merely because he stepped up and learned the part in a week. It’s because he became the role. He let himself in – his own spirit, who, like the character he portrayed, had multi-layered facets to him. He let all of himself shine through. A teacher can coach, plead, and try to methodically guide a person toward that goal, but he is either willing to open his spirit on the stage, or he is not. And Matt was willing, and the audience knew, and that was the magic he made.

That’s what happened to Matt during the show. Here’s what happened to the rest of us, because of what we witnessed from him. We experienced excellence in the face of what might have been disaster. We saw that together, as a team, we can achieve a spectacular goal We hugged and cried together with joy and pride for him, and for us. Our focus for the opening show in this beautiful auditorium became so clear and so unified - support and succeed. Every freshman boy wanted to be Matt, or at least be his best friend. Every girl wanted a boyfriend exactly like him, to look at her the way he looked at Grace. All of us on the staff knew that this, Matt’s journey, was the stuff we, as teachers, live for. Stepping back and watching a student look inside himself and bring out qualities and skills he never knew he had…because we, all of us, helped convince him he could.

Because of Matt, I will have a life-long reminder to never again look at a kid and doubt his untapped potential. I will never forget that the greatest challenges yield the greatest rewards. And I will never forget how fragile life is, and that the little show that might seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of life, might, for someone, turn out to be the biggest thing of all. I will be ever grateful of that gift, and the many others that Matt’s spirit leaves with us.