Sunday, August 15, 2010

Undoing the Damage

Yesterday afternoon, I spontaneously decided to take the girls to the Magical Secret Beach for a couple of hours, to get them out of the house, into the fresh air, into the ocean and to break up an otherwise quiet day at home. I called the Saads, and Chris and the kids joined us. They spent a couple of hours frolicking about, while Chris and I chatted and watched the seagulls...and the children, of course. The girls put together some sort of musical routine that was designed to get us to take them to the movies...we didn't pay it too much attention, because they daily put together musical routines for one purpose or another. We said no, having other evening plans, and the three of them pitched a fit. (Well, mostly mine, but still...) It was one of those disgusting displays of spoiled-brattiness, a serious case of the gimme-mores, and I hit the ceiling.

We are now launching into the second installment of what I affectionately call Consumer Depravation Period. I did this once before, a year or so ago, when they had ceased to show the appropriate appreciation for the life they have, the "stuff" they get from toys to orange coolatas, and it was very effective. What it means is that there are no treats, no dinners out, no ice cream, nothing besides what's already in our house. Not one red cent will be spent on them in any fashion. (I wish I had not picked up groceries for camp yesterday morning - though I did stash some of it away already.) This, of course, is accompanied by stories of my early childhood of poverty, of the hard work and stress my mother had to experience even to provide us with the basics, let alone the luxuries...the feeling of waiting in the "free lunch" line in the cafeteria and lunches of government cheese. They have no idea how great they have it...but in this next week and half, until we leave for vacation, they're going to get a taste of it. Chores are being doubled, and if they don't come out of this with a greater appreciation of their toys and their own rooms and their wonderful lives that are NOT a feature of good luck, but of the hard work and loving tendencies of their parents, then we will spend the weekend in Pennsylvania NOT in Hershey Park and Amish Adventure Land (or whatever it's called) but driving through the slums of Philadelphia. (What? I ain't scared.)

I know that it sounds extreme to freak out over one little temper fit on a beach, but it's been building. And I am not above using Serious Drama to make my point when it matters.

So, no running out to meet the ice-cream truck, no extra dollars for the snack bar at camp, no back to school anything until further notice. But, of course, there WILL be trips to the mall, the bookstore, Target and CVS, where they will NOT get this one book they've been waiting for forever or one little pack of gum or just a bottle of water...

I hate to think that I have spoiled my children, and prefer instead to recognize that wanting things is natural and normal, and that this is just a phase. They do appreciate things, generally - family time, and gifts from their grandparents, and special trips and events. But there have just been seven too many exasperated sighs when they don't get that little bit more that they want. I will NOT have children who feel entitled to everything under the sun. I want them to appreciate the simple things in life, the ones money can't buy, and I intend to fully double my efforts to align our family values with our actual day to day family life.

I think about what President Obama said about everyone needing to tighten their belts, stop living lives of excess, and I am as guilty of that as anyone. I can do better for our family that I've been doing, set a better example, and spend my money on the stuff that matters, instead of the crap that doesn't. It'll be good for all of us. (Insert Patriotic musical swell here.) We are so lucky to have this big beautiful house, more than we need to entertain us and nourish us, body and soul. It's time to make do with what we have much more, because we have so freaking much.

Turning over a new leaf today.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

There are days in my life that stand out as shining jewels. And there are days that are benchmarks, where I chose to follow a road and that has made all the difference. And then there are days so full of pleasures and small discoveries that your positive energy bank is tipped deeply into the black. I had a day like that today.

Firs, I chopped my hair off yesterday. And I'm not a tiny bit sorry, though I look like someone entirely different. I actually feel quite like someone entirely different lately, and it suits my soul right now. Patrick was going through something important today, and I sent energy strongly in that direction. I sat on the beach this morning for nearly three hours, and journaled for most of it. I drank iced coffee, I got some things off my chest, I got to the bottom of some worries and stirrings. I watched the tide come all the way in, soaked in the sunshine, abandoning the umbrella, which I normally find unthinkable. I watched the dragonflies and the piping plovers, looked for seashells, wandered into the seagrass which tickled my knees, and was utterly, totally alone on this outdoor expanse.

I had several meaningful conversations, and reminisced about joyful moments - martinis on a deck, the drive Chris and Dan and I took to San Diego, listening to Earth Wind and Fire, a walk in the woods behind Rolling Green, a trip to Florida. I had a perfect soundtrack for my ride home: Fantasy by EWF, Oooh Child by the Five Stairsteps, Country Roads by John Denver, Don't Fence me in by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters and On a Clear Day, which is my favorite hymn to joy. I stopped at a farmstand on the way home and bought this:

Which I then turned into this:

Which may be the most perfect lunch in the history of human-kind. I defy you to think of one more satisfying and colorful.

The next part I can't tell's too embarrassing...okayfineI'lltellyou. I'm watching Somewhere in Time, which was the first romantic movie I ever saw where I totally GOT it. "Oh! THIS is what the poets meant! THIS is what it feels like!" No wonder my romantic relationships have always been so twisted - look at the baseline standard! I pity every boy who's ever liked me.

And then, to top off my day of delights, Craig sends the the following link in response to my blog yesterday regarding mouse dioramas - and this is the second best thing anyone has ever sent me on the internet. I leave you with the following gift from my beloved friend, and you're welcome:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


--In one of my favorite novels, Tuck Everlasting, the opening paragraph states (in paraphrase) that the first week of August hangs at the very top of the live-long year, like a ferris wheel that pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before lead up from the capricious spring, and the weeks that follow, the down-turn toward winter. But the first week of August is still, and hot. I am allowing that stillness to enter into my soul right now, remembering to be motionless for a few moments at a time, to pause and listen to the crickets and watch the turkeys in my yard. It also says that it causes people to be listless, and restless, and drawn to do things they'll be sorry for afterward. What are you doing that you might be inclined to be sorry for later?

--I cut off all my hair today, and colored it a sort of goldenish brown. I am very happy with it, but Abby's first reaction was, "Now you look like one of those OLD mothers!" And her second reaction was, "You look like you're in college." Hmmm. I don't qualify this, so far, as a thing I'll feel sorry for later. I find it very freeing. I needed a great big change.

--My daughters left for camp this morning without the backpacks I had packed so carefully, containing bathing suits and extra underpants and clean towels and I-love-you notes written on their lunch napkins. They realized it after ten minutes of waiting in the car at the bus stop, and we raced back to get them, hoping we'd make it in time. It somehow diminished the fuzzy glow of yesterday's whole deal of waving goodbye to the big yellow bus. They missed the freaking yellow bus this morning, and I had to drive them the half an hour to camp, and the half hour home. Not so glowy.

--In looking through the Book of Questions recently, the following came up: "If you were to determine some sort of test to determine whether or not two people were soul-mates, what would it be?" My answer came so clearly, and even thinking about it days later, I still think I'm right on. It's a four step process.
1.) A discussion about books. Favorite books currently, favorites as a kid, the ones that made an impact on your spirit and became your manuals for life. Even if they're not the same, I think people need to have an understanding of the literature that touches their partners' souls. It's very telling.
2.) A crisis situation. Something serious has to happen in one person's life, and both need to see how they deal with it.
3.) Going away together. And not necessarily to sleep together, but just to see how each person deals with the stress and opportunity of travelling.
4.) Sex. 'Cause...chemistry, baby. If it doesn't work in bed, it doesn't work at all. And I think you can build and hone it, but if there's not that chemical pull there to start, it's pointless.

--You know you're home too much in the daytime when you start to think of Yes, Dear and According to Jim as excellent television entertainment. That's what's on in the middle of the afternoon, my friends.

--I am terrified of that Chef on Hell's Kitchen. He haunts my nightmares, yelling at me and dropping the f-bomb over a misplaced garnish.

--I want to see that movie called Dinner for Shmucks only to see the Mouse dioramas. I am a huge fan of the diorama as an art form...which is why I subject my 6th graders to them frequently, for my own selfish amusement. Diorama's of King Tut or Dionysus? Never boring.

--And speaking of Book of Questions, Jennifer Garner and Ashley Judd are just universally sleep-with-able. They seem to be on everyone's list, regardless of orientation. They must be very proud of that.

--I passionately adore my friends. I know I've mentioned that, but it bears repeating. Blessed beyond measure am I.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Yellow Bus

This morning I had a rite-of-passage experience...I put my children on a big yellow schoolbus and watched it drive away.

Now, I know my kids are 10 and 9, and that all of my mother-friends have already done this a million times, but my kids have been driven to school by Patrick for their entire school career, and so this is new for them, and new for me.

They're off to a day camp for two weeks - for swimming, archery, arts and crafts, that sort of thing. Amelia is excited, Abby is only partly excited ("I love swimming, but I don't want swimming lessons...I don't want to play sports of any kind! Not soccer, not t-ball...I am sure that my mother heard these exact same words from me 30 years ago.) I hope that they will have fun, and I will be using the time to get my house fully finished and organized - finally unpacking the basement, getting junk out of the garage, getting our lives in order and systems in place. And...I will get my hair done and go to the beach alone, for the first time ever, and do a thousand other personal things I don't get to when the kids are the dentist, and the brow-wax lady.

Today, though, I made peanut butter sandwiches and packed their towels and sunscreen and bathing suits, fixed ponytails and watched them walk onto a giant bus that was too crowded. They had to mill around for a bit until the counselor helped them get it organzied....but still, those moments where they paced the aisle, oversized backpacks smacking the seats, trying to negotiate the challenge of finding a place to sit amongst strangers, it was all I could do to not climb on the bus and help them figure it out, solve it for them. Put on my teacher voice and manage the kids so everyone has a place. It's what I do, all the time, everywhere...and yet, I had to let my two precious curly girls manage that on their own.

They're confident, and resilient. We built them like that on purpose, so that when these situations arise, they would boldly create a place for themselves. And I am well-versed in the art of stepping back and allowing them to do that, but there was something about the combination of the big yellow school-bus, and the too-big backpacks, and my own emotional state that left me feeling quite undone.

I have loved every phase with my girls so far, and it's very rare that I look with longing on the past. I honor their past, and I scrapbook the crap out of it, and I loved and savored each phase while it was here. I'm not a person who clings to the past, though there are those who would argue that point. I examine the past, yes. I look at it to understand where I am now, where I'm going, and how I got this way, but I never wish my way back to then. I always believe that the best of times is now, and that wonderful times are around the bend in the road.

This morning, though, I just wish I could go back to the August of nine years ago, with my newborn Abby cradled in my arms, and my one-and-a-half year old Amelia snuggled up against us on the couch, Huggy Bear in her fist, watching Bear in the Big Blue House. No mean girls, not hurt feelings, no negotiations....just comfort and protection and a certainty that I had the power to protect them from harm.

They are not in danger at camp, I know, but they rightfully will have to step out of their comfort zones to try new things, meet new people, and figure out who they are in a new place. I can only hope that the work we've done to fill their toolboxes with confidence will pay off when it matters, when that big yellow bus takes them out of my reach.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dear August

Dear August,

It goes without saying that we have had a long-standing love affair. You are the month that I look forward to the most, though I know you have a private little rivalry with December. Rest assured, dear are both so unique, and I love you both the same amount, only differently. Like that children's book, I love you the goldest, and I love December the red-greenest.

But you're here now, my darling month, my month of coffee and amusement parks and scrapbook pages and beach sand between my toes. My month of journaling and trashy novels and too much liquor and questionable hygeine. You are indulgence and rest, fortitude and lust, a time to connect with people and shut the ringer off my phone at the least inclination.

In short, August, you fill my well of hedonistic, pleasure-centered, most base personal needs, and allow me to fill the the other 334 days with something resembling an upstanding life, one in which I seek to actively inspire the leaders of tomorrow to make the world better through Passionate Good Deeds and Industrious Effort....starting September 7th.

Till then, though, for the next four weeks, I will sleep too late, eat too much, stay up too late writing or reading or otherwise frittering the time away. I will watch Ellen and Oprah and tons of Glee reruns and all of those random movies kicking around on my DVR. (Otherwise, they'll be deleted when December's Hallmark movies begin, and I would never want to use a cinematic device to foster unnecessary jealousy between the two of you.)

August, I love you for Magical Strawberry Drink and for swimming pools, for show-tunes blasting and staying in my pajamas all the way through the shrill ladies on the View. I love you for Provincetown and Patrick's secret beach and the Marshfield Fair - my only chance to pat a cow all the year long. I love you for flip-flops, sun-dresses, and a lack of accountability, and if I don't straighten up my house and load the dishwasher until 4:45, just in time for Patrick to get home, well...that's our little secret, isn't it? You don't mind, and you will keep my worst habits under your floppy straw hat. I love you for that, too.

I love you for not judging me when my children watch far too much Scooby Doo, and I love you for the chance to take them to the library and buy them shiny new school sneakers. (Though not yet, August! I'm not even close to ready yet. But I know that when I am, you'll support me through that as well. August, you're so versatile.)

So thank you in advance, my sunflower beauty, bursting with fresh blueberries and queen anne's lace and a chance to pick up four of the 71 novels piled into the "Friends I Haven't Met Yet" shelf in the Athenaeum. Thank you for thunderstorms and fireflies and fried oreos at the downtown street fair.

August, our affair will be brief and brilliant - blazing, even - and when you leave me, I will do my fair share of huddling and shaking and eating too much Ben and Jerry's while I write class lists into my rank book. I will lament your passing in pages and pages of simpering prose in my spiral notebook, and eventually, when I'm shopping for Halloween costumes and buying things that smell like cinnamon, I will be able to think of you with a wistful tenderness, instead of the fierce, devotional obsession I feel today.

Firmly planted in the moment after a gin-and-tonic-with-extra-lime,


And just to further amend that post yesterday...that is not at all to say that I'm always right or benevolent or good....I'm more often than not clueless and obtuse and inattentive to that which is not smack on the path in front of my feet. I'm just saying that when I've had a hard choice, and I dug down deep to bottom of my soul to ask what to do, I've listened to the answer I've gotten. I have plenty of work to do in many other aspects of my life to be better and kinder and more patient and more loving, but I've just had some clarity this summer about my own inner compass.

My inner compass this morning is telling me to drink a lot of coffee, and when the rainstorms come, to sit on my front porch with Eat, Pray, Love. That is what I shall be doing.

More Faith

I set an intention for this summer to try to have more faith in myself. When I wrote that back in June, I mostly meant about my writing – I wanted to have the faith in myself that the people who love me have in me. In the way most things go, though, my declaration came true in unexpected ways.

Already this summer, I have faced some challenging moments. And in them, and before and after them, I felt some clarity in how I needed to be, what I needed to do or say, and I trusted my instincts. I trusted what my gut told me, and even though many things did not turn out the way I hoped, I still feel that I did what was right, followed my path, trusted myself.

Change is in the air, all around me. And it’s not the coming of fall. It’s a shift in mindset – looking at 40, accepting some circumstances and having complete clarity in what I have yet to create in my life.

In April, I made a vision board that came very true in spooky ways. I intend to do another one this August, and I am so sure about what needs to be on it. I know what I want, I know where I’m headed, and I am leaving the “how” to the angelic experts. I am preparing for the best, because I know for certain that the best is yet to come.

I woke the girls up at 5:00 a.m. this morning and surprised them with a trip to Storyland. On the way up there, I got lost. I knew where to go for guidance, and got it. And in the process, I got a beautiful, scenic drive of early morning mist rising over the White Mountains, waterfalls, and too many shades of sunlight-dappled green for my eyes to grasp. We had a wonderful day together, the girls and I – riding the Bamboo Chutes about eleven times, then met Lisa and her family for a swim at their hotel and pizza for dinner. Lisa, in her most Lisa-ish ways, managed to affirm in two hours things that I have grappled with for weeks. It was a grounding I didn’t even know I needed. Had a tricky ride home (Hi…Giant Rt. 93 Sinkhole? Anyone hear about that?) But even then, I had two sleepy, happy, satisfied girls snoozy in the backseat, as I listened to Bedtime Magic and that crazy Dalilah music, and even then, I was proud that I had done something adventurous and bold and made a page for the scrapbook.

I’m tired as I write this, but Julia Roberts is about to be on Letterman to talk about the movie I’m second-most looking forward to this year. (Eat, Pray Love, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One is still my dorky #1 choice.) I’m tired, but I’m going to post this inane rambling anyhow because I have made a commitment to myself to get freaking serious about this writing thing. No matter what drivel is flowing, it’s MY drivel, and I’m going to raise it on my Freak Flag for all the world to see.

Okay, wait…three more things:
1.) Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are perfection in a food item.
2.) The smell of my daughters’ hair, even when it’s chlorine-laced or tangly, grounds my spirit completely.
3.) I may not know what I’m doing most of the time, but I know that when I follow what feels right in my solar plexus, I’m never wrong. I can look back to being 14 and know that when I listen to that, I am never wrong. I have the 64 spiral notebooks to prove it, soon to be organized and padlocked here in my watermelon slice-colored office, waiting to serve their purpose.

Bon nuit, amies. Merci.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Look Over There

I’m trying to keep consistent about blogging this month, but I’ve really done no writing whatsoever except for when I was in New York. I journaled like 40 pages that weekend, and it’s the calmest I’ve felt in ages. Here are a few snippets of journal entries. Partly ‘cause it’s really all I’ve got, and partly because it’s very much a portrait of the way my mind works. These are disjointed snippets of things I heard or read or thought, or figured out and found resonant.

On the train:
I just passed some horrible slummy looking neighborhood, and I thought, as I very, very often do, that there but for the grace of my mother – and of a college education - go I. I could so easily have wound up like that – like so many of my family before me. I half expect it – the single mother balancing multiple low-paying jobs, with my scrappy, shabby children under the eyes of predators and scoundrels all the time. Truly, there are few days of my life that pass where I do not remember this. Choices and sacrifices were made to ensure I did not go there. I chose to marry a man who will not leave me…especially not leave me like that. Instead, here I am, on a train, heading to see four Broadway shows, with To Kill a Mockingbird in my bag beside me and a five-bedroom home with neat husband and clean children to return to on Sunday. Thankful, Thankful.

My 70’s radio playlist on Pandora…
Bless the Beasts and the ChildrenI love you Just the Way You Are: “You always have my unspoken passion…” Barry Manilow’s Weekend in New England…remembering Elise and I howling with laughter as “Mandy” blasts in our hot tub room in Northampton…Air Supply, Jim Croce, BJ Thomas…”I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining…”

Later, in my room…
I’m eating a turkey club sandwich IN bed, on a table-cloth covered tray that someone wheeled into my room, wearing silky pajamas and drinking a pina colada while watching a Meryl Streep movie…I love my life!

Thursday, the first morning of the workshop…
It’s incredibly hot in this theater. Our director just called our experience “a site-specific rendition of 110’ in the Shade.” Only like three other people laughed with me. This proves I am a tremendous nerd.

“Why do we sing on stage? Because the character feels so much something that mere words are not enough. They have to sing it." (to paraphrase Joshua Logan.) I feel that way a lot – it’s why the most important moments of my life always have a soundtrack.

As they are setting up for this workshop on technical theater, the mic chords are too short. Four of Broadway’s finest technical theater professionals all look at each other blankly, no clue what to do. The program director swoops in and takes care of it herself.

Broadway theaters all rent their sound and light equipment. I did not know that! If you’re going to purchase your own for your theater, make sure it’s all of equivalent quality. Don’t buy an expensive board and then shitty body mics. “It’s the weakest link in the chain that will always fail you.” Ain’t THAT the truth of life?

The sexy sound guy who looks like Jack’s dad from Lost has a beautifully chiseled chin. He just said, “plug that into my dimmer rack” and now everything he says sounds dirty.

After lunch, Presentation from the creators of the Ragtime Revival…
On deciding to direct it: “They called and I agreed, then I wanted to back out. I got scared, and generally when I get scared, it means I should do it.” Good advice. She saw Ragtime as a ballet, and thinks it’s the best, most important theater piece from the second half of the 20th century. I totally agree.

As an actor, to draw upon personal experience is to examine your wounds with scabs, not the newly formed, festering ones that hurt too much to face just yet. If an actor is lost in his own pain, and crying, then the audience is not crying. You need to remember the feeling, but not be lost in the feeling.

“Back to Before” is sung barefoot on beach. The ocean is in the accompaniment, rolling and relentless.

“As a director, I need you upstage left on this line. It’s your job as the actor to figure out why you decide to go there.”

Later, a presentation by a famous playwright…
Yeah, this lady is a wack-job. She just explained a play she wrote about a pool – that takes place IN A POOL – where nursing mothers complain that they keep leaking milk into the water. I would much rather be sitting in the hotel bar right now.

“What is the blazing moment you want to explore? THAT’S your play, right there.”

Midnight, as it turns my birthday…
In a fabulous secret bar, drinking Prohibition Punch. If this is what 39 feels like, bring it on.

Friday morning, at the theater…
I’m wearing my new, very expensive shirt, and I’m having a good hair day. I started the day with phone calls, a bazillion Facebook birthday greetings, a vanilla latte and a chocolate croissant. I’m feeling kind of sparkly and glowy inside. Now I’m starting my MTI workshop, where I am determined to win first prize in the trivia contest for the third year in a row. This day is already kicking ass. (Then, two hours later…) Holy shit. I totally won the contest again.

Later that day, William Ivey Long…
(First of all, he’s amazing. Google him.) He’s like a throwback from a 1950’s supper club era, pinky up and pin-striped suit impeccable. He says Hugh Jackman and David Hyde Pierce are the nicest men in show business, and that Robin Wright is the most beautiful woman he’s ever met in real life. I learned a great deal about lighting and scenery from his presentation…amazing, since he’s a costume designer! (Seriously – Wikipeida him!) He’s completely in charge of everything about the way the actor looks, head to toe. Wigs, makeup, everything. “I’m the one the directors yell at, that’s how I know I’m in charge.” Also, he lived with Betty Smith (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Joy in the Morning) for like three years! That’s an amazing connection. “I love actors. They’re magical. They have been touched by the gods.”

Craig Carnelia, Acting teacher and author of many songs in Working
(I write a lot during this presentation, things he said and did, but overall, I was just riveted to his energy) “Your acting has to DO something, in your song, you must be DOING something. Don’t just swim in the pool of your feelings…use the feelings in the preparation and then make it specific. You don’t want to sing in vague sorrow, and you don’t want to be in reverence…you want to be blatant. What do you want to get through these words?” Oh, I could be a good theater teacher, given the chance. I’ve never had the chance. I get it, though, and I know I could teach it. Then…Oh, my god, he’s going to play and sing the Mason Song, right here, four feet from where I sit. I LOVE this song! Best. Birthday. Ever. And that message, being blatant. The life lesson I have been striving most to learn for 30 years.

Later, sitting in the theater, waiting for the show to start:
Really loving today. I feel happy and uplifted and jumpy and relaxed, and like I can hear my own voice for the first time in ages. I need this trip each year. I need it as the best potion for all that which sometimes ails me. I am glad to know that this escape holds that key for me, and I am grateful that in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t even so very much to want. It’s big enough to keep me working my ass off all year to be worthy of it. And from the work, everyone wins – my students, because I’m a better teacher when propelled by the energy I store here in my reserve. I can be more patience and inspiring with them. My husband, because it allows him to enjoy his time away without his guilt or my resentment. It adds so much balance to the force. I am a broken record of appreciation.

At La Cage…
So, count all the loves who will love you from now
Till the rest of your life.
And when you have added the loves who have loved you before…
Look over there! Look over there!
Somebody loves you more…

Monday, August 2, 2010

There and Back Again

It’s been a long, long time.

I do have a lot to say, and a lot I’d love to say but can’t, and I’ve felt very out of touch. With the people I talk to here, and with the part of me that puts my life and experiences on the line for the purpose of art and creativity and the equivalent of a literary sit-up…my public commitment to something like a writer’s life. So, I’m back, and I’m determined and I’m changing focus.

By way of wrap up, I am going to write about my top ten events of the summer. They are not the biggest things that have happened to me this summer, but unfortunately, the big things are not happy things and not mine alone to talk about. So, I will focus instead on the small things, the little moments of bliss and discovery and shininess that I want to hold tightly to. They are not in any particular order.

1. Riding the train to NYC for my Broadway Teachers’ Workshop. I had figured out Pandora radio, and designed a station based on the Carpenters. I listened to 70’s soft rock for like three hours. Magnficient. And I journaled almost the whole time, the first time all summer. So much came tumbling out, and I felt so cleansed. I was wearing a white dress, and new sandals, and had an adventure ahead of me. It was perfect.

2. I directed 100 kids in Guys and Dolls this past weekend. And it had rough spots, but honestly, from where we began to where we ended up was an incredible journey. I am proud of that, and feel that each child got something of their own from the experience. That, alone, is worth the energy spent to make it happen. And among the coolest parts of it is the fact that a bunch of my middle school alumni, and two of my most favorite high-school kids came to see it…the middle school kids to support their friends, but the high school kids to support me, and it just reminded me how blessed I am by that job. Even though it drains me, even though it’s very hard to find the energy for it, there are wonderful people there, and I love them. There was a whole discussion at my workshop this summer about what the kids call their directors – by first name, or by Mr. or Mrs…and a bunch of them said, “The kids gave me a nickname…” and most usually, it was just their last name. And I realized…me too! Many of the kids just call me KBrowne, which I find incredibly sweet. I’ve been too embarrassed to admit how much I like it, until I heard a whole bunch of other people say the same thing.

3. My house has been blessed by my friends this summer. It is not complete yet – I am missing a key component of that in the form of my beloved Morgans – but still, I have had a number of gatherings in which moments of blessing have happened. Eating lobster in my dining room after a day at the beach. The children running through the yard with glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bug-sprayed bare feet. Chris making snow cones for everyone on the breakfast bar. Cards on the front porch, heart-to-hearts on the sun-porch, pictures of my friends being placed into scrapbooks in the Athenaeum…my home is becoming mine, in the only way it could, by the loving energy of my awesome tribe.

4. Many of the best moments of my summer were in New York, but really only because I took the time and brain space to let them in. I had a wonderful time, and saw some amazing theater. My favorite was a show called Memphis, which I saw after a lovely lunch right on the Rockefeller Center skating rink in front the golden statue, right after a great conversation with a friend, right after a watermelon martini. It was about a DJ in 1951 who was white, and loved “black” music, and called it the music of his soul. I was reflecting on how he was beaten up and arrested for kissing a white woman, and here we are, in 2010, and Barack Obama is our president. And he’s a good man and is doing the best job he can, no matter what the pundits say. He is good, and he is really trying to make the world better. And to find racial equality was really hard, but, as a people, we can do hard things. We have done so many hard things, and we are capable of doing what needs to be done.

5. In New York, Mom and Auntie and I met Jamie and his new boyfriend at a gay sing-along cabaret in the village. It was lots of fun, and because it was my birthday, Jamie agreed to sing for me. He chose “In Lily’s Eyes” from the Secret Garden, which I had seen him do in college, and it was just perfect in his delicious baritone – the music of MY soul from the first time I heard him. He’s pretty crazy about this new fellow, and I liked him immediately. When Jamie got up to sing, he dedicated the song to him, and to me, and sang it exquisitely. At one point, I looked over and saw this fellow gazing at Jamie with a look that can only be described as falling-in-love. And I felt so invasive to be witnessing it, but it was so exquisite and divine that I couldn’t look away. No matter what happens with that relationship, I saw a perfect moment within it with my very own eyes. It was a gift.

6. Last year my book club (Yes, Really!) read Pillars of the Earth, and I loved it. I was really looking forward to seeing it come to life, and I have been thoroughly enjoying it. Perfect casting. And it happens in 8 parts, so it can fill that aching “Lost” hole that has left me flipping through the channels aimlessly.

7. I went to a wedding last weekend. It was the second wedding of a friend that has had a very difficult life, one that I have been intimately involved in at a few critical times. She is very happy now, and had her wedding outdoors at her Aunt’s house in a beautiful garden on a high hill. Patrick was away, and Sean was my date. He was so game to just go out to something fun, to dance and to really enjoy the event, which was staged to be underneath a beautiful arbor of trees on a perfect July afternoon at 3:00. At 2:59, the dark and stormy sky literally opened, and we all ran under the tent. Sean and I took turns taking an umbrella out to the beverage hut, and we passed a pleasant hour under the tent, drinking wine and talking about cabbages and kings. You’ll think I’m making this up, but when the sun finally came out again, it was at exactly the moment where they began to say their vows.

8. I’ve had some great moments of connection with both of my girls this summer. It’s been hard, because I’ve been very busy, but when we’re on, we’re right on. We’ve been listening to the Percy Jackson series on CD in the car, listening to the soundtracks of Glee, singing our heads off to Shrek. We have a bunch of adventures yet to come this month, and surprises in store.

9. In another New York Moment, I emailed my friend that I was in town, and he agreed to spontaneously meet me that night for drinks. We went to two places, both fabulous, and I had such a lovely time having a real talk with a kindred spirit. It was a beautiful reminder that kindred spirits come in unexpected places, and that I always know them when I find them.

10. This moment. This one right here, where I commit to reconnected with this part of myself, and with you, in the watermelon slice room that I designed and envisioned for just this purpose. This is a new beginning for me, a new commitment, and I am full of light and certainty about it.

Sorry I’ve been gone so long, but I’m back now to stay. Thanks for sticking with me.