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.