Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Resolve

I usually use my Monday Mission posts to try my hand at humor. I take the blog style and do something a little out of the ordinary for me. And nearly always funny. Or at least... hopefully.

But today my style suggestion is New Year's Resolutions. And I could do something funny, like the resolutions of my new cat (leave hair on all articles of clothing, meow meaningfully at humans then lead them to the wall, lull them into complacency so they will keep me...) or even resolutions of The May Queen (get as tall as Daddy, eat a dessert the size of my head...)

But I am actually going to make some New Year's Resolutions.

And this is momentous, because I never make them. Really. I think I might have been in High School the last time I made resolutions.

And they are THEMED resolutions. Because who doesn't love a good theme? They are things I have wanted to do for quite some time, but haven't, for various reasons and excuses.

The theme is JOURNALING.

I resolve to keep THREE JOURNALS

1 - a Food log - everything I eat and drink
2 - a gratitude journal - everyday at least one thing I am grateful for
3 - a prayer journal - to help me with the discipline of prayer (I am pretty loosey goosey about this, and would like to be better) and to also give me a chance to look back and see the fruits of my prayers.
(journals 2 and 3 might actually be combined, as I plan to offer thanks for the things I'm grateful for...)

And will I write about these things on this journal, my blog? Maybe, we'll see. Probably. Because clearly I don't need to resolve to keep this up. I'm addicted, and plan to keep boring you for quite some time.

So? Got a post in the Style of New Year's Resolutions? They don't have to be yours. Put it in the Link below.

ACK! Mister Linky, my nifty widget provider that lets me do the cool links on the page appears to be down. ack. OK. drop me a line in the comments if you do a post, and I'll try to get links into this post, but I have friends in town so I make ZERO promises about that. So... the rest of you... check out the comments to find others who are partaking in the Monday Missions.

Links:
Dragonfly
SarcastaMom

New Missions for a New Year
(or at least a new month)
Write a post in the following style on these Mondays:
1/7- Thank You Letter
1/14- Movie Synopsis
1/21- Product Description
1/28- Children's book or poem

Friday, December 28, 2007

meow?

It all began this morning with a conversation on our back porch. I think I must have said "I don't want a cat" about a dozen times, at least.

As I type this, there is a cat in my lap.

We have unexpectedly taken in a kitty cat. We're doing this as a trial run. We had some friends who needed to find a home for a cat, and we agreed to give it a go. The cat would have been returned to a shelter today if we didn't take him, and we were clear with the friends we took him from that if things didn't work out they would need to take him back there. He's a really sweet long haired gray and white tabby cat - patient with the May Queen, and enjoys people. He's sitting in my lap right now. We'll see how it goes... what with my allergies and just the trials of pet ownership (you know, like cat bathing). The May Queen is rather gleeful over this new development. The Big Guy is, too. Me? I'm a bit wary of the whole thing, but we'll see.

*****
Monday's Mission is to write a post in the style of New Year's resolutions. I suppose it's too late for mine to be "stay feline free." Anyhow... get thinking about yours. Come back here on Monday and post a link. ALSO... I am still accepting ideas for next Month's Missions. Please leave in the comments or send me an email at pntdmaypoleATyahooDOTcom. I'd like to post the missions for January this Monday.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Joy


A Gingerbread house - thanks to Bayou Belle




MQ's appearance as a Shepherd in her school Christmas program went much better than her sullen appearance as Mary in our church pageant. She smiled, sang all of her songs, and most of the other kids' songs, too. Unfortunately all my pictures from the actual program came out blurry.
This is the only way you can make a snowman in Louisiana. Well, unless you have a fantastic grandparent who somehow manages to bring down three snowballs in her LUGGAGE that you can reassemble in your home (after running outside barefoot to get twigs for its arms) as my mother did nearly 2 years.
Either MQ arranged this nativity in her classroom, or all kindergartners think alike.
My 2 favorite Christmas presents.

Hope yours was merry. The May Queen is a bit under the weather, so we had a rough night, a late start to the day, and subdued festivities. I was busy with making meals (including our traditional fritters and chili), catching up with friends and relatives in 3 different countries, and trying to help MQ play with all her toys. After she went to bed the adults (my husband and my parents and I) played games. May I highly recommend a new game we received this year - Hoopla, by Cranium. Lots of fun, and everyone is on the same team.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Seasons Greetings from the Bennets! - a Heroic Monday Mission

Seasons Greetings from the Bennets!

Sorry we missed out on sending out a letter last year, but things were rather hectic. What with Claire discovering her new power and all, and then being chased by a psycho killer. Wait! you think. New power? Indeed! Our little Claire-Bear has the power to heal herself. She can even cut off an appendage and it will regenerate. Pretty cool, no? But there was this crazy guy who wanted her power and was after her, but fortunately some other folks thought it was really important to "save the cheerleader, save the world..." whatever that means... but it sure saved our Claire-Bear, so we are grateful. We have had to move in an attempt to hide our identity, but Claire continues to be a cheerleader and is dating a very nice young boy who just happens to be able to fly (!!!!) We've never met his parents, or really know anything about him other than he uses his power to peak into windows, make quick getaways, and save our darling Claire... so I'm sure he's a good guy.

Noah had to leave his job at Primatech Paper, but of course, it turns out that was all a front anyways for a really rather shady company that studied people with other abilities... like Claire only different... but he couldn't work for them anymore so he went to work for a copy store. At least he stayed in the paper business. Oddly enough he still made enough money so we could have a beautiful house in a very expensive area of California, AND he could travel all over the world. Although it did sort of catch up with him when he was shot through the head, but fear not, Claire's blood was able to heal him, too. Pretty cool, no? Of course, we all have to still pretend he's dead. Kind of like we had to do last spring, as well. Hmmm... life is rather circular. Anyhow, I suppose we will have to move again. Maybe we'll think to change our first names this time, too. And lock Claire in her room. It's for her own good.

Lyle is...well, um... I'm sure he's around here somewhere. It must be hard growing up in the shadow of Claire, but he seems to be doing OK. At least he has managed to not get shot. Yet.

All this craziness and moving and whatnot has sure put a dent in Mr. Muggles' show schedule, it's been nearly 2 years since he's won a blue ribbon. But he knows he is still a winner in our house. Isn't that right, Mr. Muggles?

And me? Well, I am just enjoying the challenges of being a mother and a wife, and trying to overcome the strain of having my memory erased so many times.

Speaking of which... The Haitian that delivered this to you? Will soon be taking away your memory. Not only of this letter (can't have anyone be able to find us through a silly old Chrismas letter, now can we?) but of your ever knowing us. We will miss you greatly, and promise we won't forget you. We hope you have a happy life, a Merry Christmas, and a happy new year. Ours is sure to be filled with more unbelievable adventures, deceit, and strange happenings.

Love,

Noah, Sharon, Claire and Lyle Bennet



****************

This holiday letter (which probably only makes sense to you if you watch Heroes) is part of this week's Monday Mission, which is (as you probably guessed) to write a post in the style of a Holiday Letter. Write your own creation and post a link to it below. Have fun! (Next week's mission... none other than New Year's Resolutions)

ALSO, IF YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS for January Monday Mission themes, please share either in the comments or through e-mail (pntdmaypoleATyahooDOTcom). What I try to do with Monday Missions is give an idea for a STYLE of writing, and then see what happens. So... what kind of posts would you like to write/read in the new year?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cheers!



I haven't blogged much about my current run on stage, because, frankly, it hasn't been all that interesting. I'm enjoying doing it, and the people in the show have been just lovely to me, welcoming me into the fold at the last minute and being very positive and supportive. I've enjoyed their company, and look forward to working with many of them again. There have been fun bouts of laughter and moments of frustration, of course, but they are small things, really, and don't translate well out of the dark and hush of the backstage. When we raise our mugs at the end of the last song tomorrow, for our final performance, I will be ready to walk away. Other than the initial jumping in, the part isn't particularly challenging or interesting. I'm a bit part in what is essentially a one man show with a huge supporting cast. And that's OK. We all come together to tell the story, and the story is not about me.

Someone said to me, when I told them I was doing this show, "How nice to be a part of so many people's Christmas tradition." Indeed it was. It is a privilege to be able to tell a story, and to work creatively with other people to do it.

by the way, I'm in the big yellow skirt just right of Scrooge.

****

Monday's Mission is nearly upon. Write a post in the form of a Holiday Letter. Funny or serious, imagined or real, write your post and come back and leave a link here. I'll have mine up Sunday night. I've already begun writing it! :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oh Come Let Us Adore Him


The May Queen helped me when we decorated the house for Christmas. I gave her the job of setting up this nativity - the first I ever owned. Someone at the church I grew up in gave me this tiny plastic set when I went off to college so I would have a decoration for my dorm room.

When I was younger my brother and I used to fight over who would set up the manger scene, and when the other one would leave the room we would set it up the way in which we thought it was better. When I gave MQ the task of setting up these figures I envisioned them spread out in a beautiful, symmetrical configuration - a stage picture that best showed all the characters and highlighted Jesus in the center... clear for us the audience to see him.

Instead, she made all the characters gather around, eager to get a close look at this new wonder, desiring to be as close as possible to the newborn king.

What could be more perfect?

Often we stand back and admire this Jesus fellow from afar. From a 'safe' distance. We worry about being seen. We are busy checking out who else is there. Feeling smug about who is not.

This Christmas I pray you get in close. Smell his baby head. Gaze into his eyes. Get as close as possible to this new wonder, this newborn king. Get shoulder to shoulder with a smelly, dirty shepherd and an elegant, wise man. Come into the presence of the one who welcomes us all.

*************
I want to thank all of you for your kind responses to my last post. It made me only a wee bit nervous to post, and I say only a wee bit because I feel like I KNOW you, my fellow bloggers in this little corner of the internet I have carved out. I know that I have created these virtual friendships with people who I have much in common with, although not all things in common. I trusted that you would hear me, and even if you did not agree with me, you would respond kindly and with love. And you did. Oh, how you did. Many of you made points I wanted to make, as well, but didn't to try to keep the post from getting even longer and more rambling than it already was. Some of you made me think about things even more, and differently. I was particularly struck by the idea of our using God as an excuse for hate and bigotry as blasphemy. Of course! my brain yelled, jubilantly. It is blasphemy. I am SO incorporating that into my way of thinking. If you haven't read all the comments, I highly recommend that you do. I am heartened to know there are so many people out there who believe in LOVE. In its many and varied forms. Some of you mentioned you may write posts of your own about the subject. If you do, please let me know. I will post links here.

And this post today makes me a wee bit nervous, too, because I know that all of my readers aren't Christians, and of course I don't want to offend any of you. But I trust you won't be offended. I trust that you know this is where I am coming from. This is my faith and my background and my blog - and so I share this with you. Without judgement. I share it with you.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

God Loves Fags

I mentioned a few posts ago that 2 of my passions were God and equal rights/treatments for gays and lesbians. The fabulous Jen asked me if I would write a bit about how those 2 things coexist. Jen is a fierce champion of social justice issues, particularly those of the homeless, and she moves me greatly with her posts. So when Jen asks for an explanation... Jen gets it. ;)

Let me begin by simply stating that I truly believe that GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:16). I'll come back to that.

My connection with this issue fully began when I was a freshman in college. A dear friend of mine in my dorm had grown up in a very traditional but loving Baptist home. He was also gay. He struggled mightily with this, and knowing that I was a Christian, too, he would talk with me about it. We spent hours talking about it and reading the passages in the Bible that people always pull out in their arguments against homosexuality. The following fall the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (the denomination I belong to) put out the first draft of its Human Sexuality study. This study was, in my opinion, a fantastic exploration of these bible passages, and came to really great conclusions about how to interpret them and how to create an ethic within the church for supporting homosexual individuals and relationships. Unfortunately 2 years later they released a second draft that reflected the outcry of many of their members, and they backed off from some of their previous assertions. I wrote a very detailed letter expressing my disappointment (they also took out a section on how masturbation is OK, saying it was so obvious it didn't even need to be in there. The fact that it made front page news when the study was first released seems to me to indicate that it DID need to be in there!) I am saddened to say that 15 years later they are still "studying" the issue. All of the studies have, as far as I can tell, come to the same conclusions as the first one, but it seems they are afraid of angering the people and dividing the church, and therefore are afraid to take the stand I wish they would make for this very important issue. But I digress a wee bit.

Back to those pesky bible passages. There are some pretty good resources out there that deal with them in detail (see resources section below) so I won't dissect them all... I will say that I believe the Bible to be silent on the issue of a committed homosexual relationship. None of the passages in the bible speaks to a partnership, a committed and loving relationship. They refer to temple prostitution, the disregard of hospitality laws, the abuse of young boys by older men. Both the Hebrew and the Greek languages have many, many more words that describe things that we boil down to one word (love, for instance) and the words used in these various passages often give a much clearer description of what is being discussed than our translations suggest.

What is clear to me in the Bible is that GOD IS LOVE. So... if the Bible is silent on the issue of a committed homosexual relationship, that is the first thing I look to when I think of how to respond. With love.

Because I think the Bible is silent on the issue, I think it is folly for us to say that homosexuality is a sin. I don't think it is. Let me repeat that. I DON'T THINK THAT HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN. However, even if you do take the position that homosexuality is a sin, I think you HAVE to remember that GOD IS LOVE and respond with love. There is no excuse for saying things like "God hates fags." I believe that God loves everyone... murders and child molesters and gamblers and alcoholics and shoplifters and little white liars and me and you. That doesn't mean that he likes everything we do. But he still loves the person. Take a look at David. The man was a lying, murdering and adultering fool. And yet still today we look to him as a pillar of faith. If God can love him, God can love anyone.

Some people in the church look at homosexual relationships a bit like they look at divorce. They believe it is not what God intended, but see them both as a symptom of our fallen world, and feel that if, because of our fallen world, the only way 2 people can experience that committed love relationship is with a person of the same sex, that we should support that relationship. They welcome gays and lesbians into their congregations and support their decisions. They don't try to "cure" them, but rather accept them as they are. I think this is a very loving Christian response.

I want to make sure I haven't muddied the waters too much here. Again, I don't think that homosexuality is a sin. I also acknowledge that I could be wrong. I may get to heaven and God may say "Painted Maypole, you were wrong." But if that happens I believe He will say "but you acted in LOVE for your fellow brothers and sisters, and that's what matters."

So for me, the biggest issue is that Christians need to respond to gays and lesbians with LOVE. I think that as a whole we have not, and this saddens me greatly.

I work in the theatre, and so you would expect that I know a lot of gay and lesbian people. I do. I also have other friends and family who are gay, including 2 of The May Queen's godfathers. We attended their wedding, and they have been wonderful friends to us and faithful godfathers to MQ.

Since that time I first sat in a room with my college friend and discussed faith and love and relationships and so much more... I have worked for social justice in this area. When I was in Los Angeles I performed and conducted theatre for social justice workshops with Fringe Benefits, a theatre company with a mission that began as building bridges between GLBTQ youth and their straight peers, but has lovingly expanded to "promote the idea that every man, woman and child deserves to be treated with dignity and respect." I also worked with my congregation in Los Angeles to adopt a statement that clearly outlines a welcome to gays and lesbians.

Where I am right now, both physically and life situations wise, I am not currently actively involved with a group that works on this issue. But it is the main issue that causes me to write letters to my government. I speak up about the issue with friends and acquaintances. I pray about it. It weighs heavily on my heart. I have seen friends and family hurt (both physically and emotionally) by the prejudices that surround this issue. I have seen a dear friend and excellent pastor leave the ministry because he could not openly be in a relationship, and it was tearing him apart.

I believe that God is Love. Denying marriage and other rights to gays and lesbians is not displaying that love. Making demeaning remarks is not displaying that love. Trying to "cure" a homosexual is not displaying that love.

Last week I was reading an article about "The Little Rock Nine" (9 black students attending an otherwise white high school in 1957). A picture showed a protester carrying a sign that read "Save our Christian America."

It struck me as the same type of argument that people are using now to keep gays and lesbians from legally marrying. They claim it is against our Christian values. That it cheapens the idea of marriage. I disagree. I think we cheapen the idea of marriage by being exclusionary. I think we cheapen the idea of marriage by not allowing people who want to dedicate their lives to each other in a public fashion that chance. I think we go against our Christian values when we do not act in loving acceptance of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Resources for more information:

Lutherans Concerned - working for full inclusion of GLBT individuals within the Lutheran Church

Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry - not only do I appear on the cover of this book, but inside you will find some wonderful plays, songs and poems for children that teach tolerance and fight bigotry. And the illustrations? Oh.. it's beautiful! Think of it as Free to Be... You and Me for a new generation.

Sexual Fulfillment for Single and Married, Straight and Gay, Young and Old - this book is written by Herbert W. Chilstrom and Lowell O. Erdahl, two retired Lutheran bishops

The Nature of Sexual Orientation - link to actual article by John R. Ballew, M.S.

Affirmation - this United Methodist movement provided me with lots of ideas and resources when I was working within my own Lutheran congregation

Sunday, December 16, 2007

1, 2, 3...

Holiday Pounds
1 - eating out with visiting family
2 - fast food grabbed on the way to performances of A Christmas Carol
3 - eggnog
4 - my mom's homemade candy
5 - more of my mom's homemade candy
6 - Christmas parties
7 - too tired/busy to exercise


And after the holidays? well... then it's King Cakes and Mardi Gras. Someone stop me from all this eating!

This post was brought to you by the number 7, and the letter M (for Monday Missions, of course! Write your own HOLIDAY LIST - whatever kind of holiday list your little brain can think up - and post a link to it below)




upcoming Monday Missions:
12/24 - Family Holiday Letter
12/31 - New Year's Resolutions

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tradition and History

I began rehearsals today for the great American musical about Jews in Russia. If you aren't humming it already, take a look at my title again.

We spent 3 hours of rehearsal today doing the staging for that song... and I have spent the rest of the day humming it.

The Big Guy and I have a bit of history with this show. When we first started "dating" I worked at a camp. There wasn't much actual "dating" - seeing as how I had to be on camp 24 hours a day for 6 days a week. But in the several weeks after camp and before I had to report back to college The Big Guy planned a surprise date for me. Remember how I ruined his surprise proposal? Well, my ruining of his surprises has an even longer history.

He was VERY excited about it, and kept talking about it and dropping hints. I don't remember what any of the hints were, other than that we were going into the city. Frankly, I didn't worry about it. I like surprises.

Well, one day I was flipping through the newspaper, probably looking for the comics and crossword puzzle, when I saw the ad. For this musical. At the big touring theatre in Detroit. For the weekend of our surprise date. And I knew.

So the next time we spoke on the phone The Big Guy started teasing me with the "surprise." I told him I know what it was.

After a brief silence he retorted "Well, you still don't know where I'm taking you to dinner!"

*************
Don't forget Monday's Mission to do a post in the style of a Holiday List. That's pretty vague, I know, but I did it on purpose to give you lots of room for creativity. Gift list? to do list? list of parties to attend? Have at it!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

lists of 8 things and an award

Golly, doesn't that title just have you drooling already, as if the teacher has said "filmstrip" and already you are sleeping with your head on your desk?

anyhow...

I was tagged for this meme by wayfarer scientista - who posts the most amazing pictures of Alaska on her blog. And is a good read, to boot. Check her out.

When she tagged me she referred to my blog as:
"Painted Maypole and the adventures of a thespian mom."

Which just tickled me, and I may have to find a way to incorporate that into my header, should I ever figure out how to make one.

On with the lists...

8 passions in my life
- God
- theatre
- The May Queen
- The Big Guy
- Children
- Equal rights and treatment for Gays and Lesbians
- Water (rivers, lakes, oceans, waterfalls...)
- Sharks

8 things to do before I die
- Scuba dive/swim with sharks
- Be part of a TRUE repertory theatre company
- Perform on Broadway (oh... if only....)
- Stand on an ancient Greek stage and speak the (translated) words of Aeschylus or Sophocles
- Ballroom dance. Well.
- Live on a rocket ship with my bestest friend (this is our plan for after our husbands die, our reasoning being that there is no gravity and hence our parts won't sag. We'll return to earth to do the occasional play together, such as playing the 2 crazy old aunts in The Cripple of Inishmann)
- Spoil my grandchildren. And my Great Grandchildren.
- Travel! Africa, Australia, Italy... there are so many places I want to see!


8 things I often say
-"Hurry Up" (to the May Queen. Admittedly, because I am the one who is running late. Shortly followed by...)
-"And we're off like a herd of turtles." (like my mother and her father before her)
-"Home again, home again, lickety split" (again, like my mother)
- "Good Gravy" (we were watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special on TV the other day, and when Charlie Brown said "Good Grief" MQ laughed and said "he should have said "Good Gravy!")
- "Baby, baby, baby!" (to the May Queen)
- "How do you ask nicely?" (I am such a mother)
- "I can't, I have rehearsal"
- "I need you to ________" (such as "I need you to get your pajamas on" or "I need you to pick up your toys" or "I need you to be quiet for a few minutes so I can think"

8 Books I read recently
the actual last 8 books I've read(I think, I lose track), starting with the most recently finished
- Last Known Victim, by E.rica Spi.ndler (who is a friend of ours, and I would prefer she doesn't find my blog... hence the extra punctuation)
- A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby
- Camille, by Alexander Dumas (this is the book that the opera I did was based on. So I read it. For research. Because I am a geek like that.)
- Love is a many trousered thing, by Louise Rennison (there is an Italian Lurve God in this book that happens to share a name with the director of my opera. this makes me laugh)
- The Treasures of a Transformed Life, by John Ed Mathison
- Fabulous Friendship Festival, by SARK
- Barrel Fever, by David Sedaris (funny, excellent light reading for traveling)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, by J.K. Rowling (it's Harry. I loved it. I finished it at appx 5am the day I left for England. Hubby was not pleased with my lack of sleep. Grumpy? Perhaps. Satisfied. Yes.)
(currently on my nightstand? - In Cold Blood)


8 songs that mean something to me (this is really hard for me, because there are so many and yet they aren't jumping out at me - these sort of songs just creep up on me, if you know what i mean)
-Old Apartment, BareNaked Ladies (reminds me so much of one of my apartments in college. Perhaps because my roomies at the time played BNL incessantly. This song didn't come out until later, but as they sing about all the things about the apartment, I picture MY old apartment. "This is where we used to live.")
-Beautiful Savior (the church that my father was a pastor of when I was little was named Beautiful Savior. Every time I sing this old hymn I think of our last Sunday there, when I was 8 years old, my mother singing this hymn with tears streaming down her face.)
- When I was a Boy, by Dar Williams. (Ladies, you must listen to this song. Men, you too. Go here. I love to sing this song, and often, 10 years after the first time I heard it, still get choked up at the end.)
- Ode to Joy - my husband's favorite hymn, sung at our wedding
- Gett Off - My favorite Prince song. Not appropriate for small children. Alas.
- Perhaps Love, John Denver and Placido Domingo. This reminds me of growing up. And it's lovely.
-Closer to Fine, Indigo Girls. My college roomie and I used to sing this, in harmony, all the time. Also one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar that wasn't a campfire song.
- Brahm;s Lullaby

8 Qualities I look for in a friend
1. Kindness
2. Good humor
3. Creativity
4. A passion for SOMETHING
5. Good conversationalist
6. Empathy
7. Ability to disagree without it being an issue
8. Bakes me cookies (just kidding!)



I'm not going to tag today, because I am lazy.




Also, a while back Oh, the Joys gave me (and half her bloglist, but I shan't let that hinder my joy in receiving it) the following award:





I would like to pass this on to the fabulously kooky Lithuanian Rima Rama, who I often save to be the last blog I read in a session of blog reading... trusting that I will end with a smile. Her blogging definitely hits the mark!

And one more random thing, because this post isn't long enough already (zzzzzzz.... wake up!). Yesterday Julie's hump day hmmm... was about pet peeves, and this morning I realized what one of mine is... deflated holiday inflatables laying in a crumpled heap on the lawn all day. They are not LIGHTS (even if they have lights in them) they are DECORATIONS that can be enjoyed just as much during the daylight hours. Leave them up! Deflated decorations are... well, deflating to my holiday mood.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mmmm.....

I discovered my favorite new holiday drink quite by accident. I'm not a coffee drinker, but enjoy a nice hot Chai Tea in the morning. The other day we were out of milk and I was contemplating drinking it without or breaking into the powdered milk (for baking) stash in the cupboard... when I thought "we have eggnog in the fridge."

I poured a little into my mug... thinking "this is either going to be great, or really gross"

It was great. I'm hooked.

Of course, it was too hot here this morning to drink anything warm, but otherwise I've been having it every morning. It's a yummy way to start the day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

That's silly!

I was standing at the kitchen counter overlooking the living room where The May Queen was getting dressed for school. As I packed her lunch she was talking to me about babies and how they ate. She expressed that babies must be REALLY hungry while they are still in their mommy's tummy. I explained about umbilical cords and belly buttons. She kept getting dressed.

Then it happened.

"How do babies get OUT of their mommy's tummy?"

"With a lot of hard work."

I heard my husband snicker at the table behind me where he was doing his daily Sudoku puzzle. The May Queen's face continued to peer expectantly at me over the back of the couch.

"Well," I began again, "babies are a lot smaller than you are when they are born, and they come out through their mommy's vagina."

A brief pause. Then the May Queen threw her head back and laughed. "That's silly!"

You think that's silly? Just wait until you ask how the baby gets IN to the mommy's tummy.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mary May Queen

Sunday morning we had our Christmas Pageant at church. I directed it, of course.

Last year The May Queen played a sheep, and wanted desperately to be Mary. So this year I decided a little nepotism was in order, and The May Queen got to play Mary.

Let me tell you, that she simply GLOWED as Mary.

Erm... that's not her.

OK, so she didn't glow. Rather, she was a very devout Mary, with her eyes turned up to heaven.

OK, so that's not her either.

No, rather, she chose to play Mary as being totally enamoured with her gorgeous new baby.


Whoops. That's not it either.

Well, she was definitely a robust Mary.


OK, maybe not.

Actually, as the director of the show i decided to take the role of Mary in a slightly different direction.


While that may be a Madonna, but I didn't take it in that different of a direction.

Rather, the May Queen stood in front of the congregation and did what any lucky child playing Mary would do.....

Wish she were someone else.

Sigh. And no, for those of you who are wondering... The May Queen does not seem to have caught the acting bug from her mama.


********
This post is part of Monday Missions. Your mission this week is to use some sort of creative photoshopping within your post. Go wild! Then come back here and put a link to your post in the widget below. Then check out the other Monday Missions.




Upcoming Monday Missions are:
12/17 - Holiday List
12/24 - Family Holiday Letter (year in review...)
12/31 - New Year's Resolutions

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Another opening, another show...

Tonight was opening night for our Dickensian Christmas extravaganza. Opening night is stretching it a bit since we've had 5 performances for school groups prior to this, as well as an "actors appreciation" night where we invited other local actors to see the show at a discounted price - but it was our first performance where we sold tickets to the general public. It was a lovely and appreciative crowd who gave us a standing ovation. And not just when Scrooge came out for his bow... they stood up right away, for the gads of other people who are little more than talking scenery for the one man show that is A Christmas Carol. Standing ovations are nice.

The show is, I think, quite good, and has many talented people in the cast. I don't have nearly the same kind of stories about it as I do the opera, since it's in my own language and no director is saying to me "Sex!" It's not as challenging and therefore not as satisfying as the opera was (I can't believe I'm saying that, but it's true) but I am very glad I'm doing it. The director has already said she wants to work with me again, the artistic director is thrilled that I stepped in and am doing so well, I've met several local actors (some of whom also direct) I've wanted to work with for a while, and I'm getting some reading done backstage. There are a lot of really fun people in the show, and I am hoping that this is the start of some good professional and personal relationships.

The theatre community here isn't very big, and even though I've done several shows here already, I feel like this show may be the true "foot in the door," the show that leads to other shows that leads to other shows, etc. I have always been a firm believer that work begets work, and so far it has proven true.

And I got a nice big laugh tonight, just from one little look. Fun.

*******
don't forget Monday's mission for a fun with photoshop post.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

In which I complain about my stress and brag about my husband

I must begin by saying that I don't know how working mothers do it. My hat is off to all of you. Seriously.

This past week I have been gone pretty much all day between my very brief part time job at the preschool and rehearsals and performances for A Christmas Carol. The time I have had at home has been short and limited, and, I confess, stressful.

When I agreed to take on this role just last week I vowed to myself that I wouldn't let things slide as much as I did when I was doing the opera. I vowed that I would be better at keeping up with my commitments both in and out of our home. And so this past week I have not only learned a new role, acclimated to a new cast and crew and OPENED said show... I have also decorated inside and out for Christmas (including shopping for and putting up a real tree), done a considerable amount of shopping and mailing of packages to friends and relatives who live far away, worked on the Christmas pageant I am directing for our Sunday School, written our yearly Christmas letter (yes, I send one of those out. and no, I will not share it with you. And yes, it is a bit braggy about all our world travels this year. sue me), worked on a short drama we'll be performing in worship in a few weeks, practiced with my praise team, spoken to friends and family on the phone, organized getting the materials for my small group bible study, fed my family, done many loads of laundry, etc, etc. I find myself short on patience and energy, and feeling guilty for not enjoying every moment. And then I realize that it is only December 5th and in many ways I am ahead of the holiday game, in comparison to where I usually am at this point in the month. And yet the stress....

I am being too hard on myself, I know. It's OK to let a few things relax. Really... did the tree have to be decorated TODAY? But I had planned to do it during this time, and gosh darn it, I got it done.

My husband, I have to say, has been wonderful. He's been giving up his quiet time in the morning to take The May Queen to school since I have to head to the theatre for our performances for school groups. He is putting her to bed nearly every night, but not before they drive around and look at all the lights (and "conflatable" Santas, et al). He has not complained at all about the frozen pizzas and lack of milk in the refrigerator. I came home today to find the laundry machines running. When I talked to him about doing this show last week he said "You want to do it. We will find a way." When I told him that tomorrow I would be going into the city to do a show in the morning and then driving the hour home to pick up The May Queen from school, and then driving back for a show in the evening he said "I can leave work and get her if you can find something to do down in the city" (um... yes! Hello working on my Christmas cards at the library... and... dare I think it... a movie?!)

That is the way he has always been about my acting. Always. Well... there was that time when I was leaving home at 6am to do children's theatre and then going straight to rehearsals for another show and coming home at 11pm and I would crawl into bed next to him exhausted... one night he DID roll over and eye me suspiciously and say "Who are you and what are you doing in my bed? My wife wouldn't like this. Of course, she's never home, so she won't find out..."

But he really truly has been always supportive of it. And this past week as I've watched him step up to the plate to help out with newly appreciative eyes, it makes me want to make sure I keep up with everything even more. Because he truly is a gem. Even if he does begin snoring 5 minutes into the time we've set aside to watch our taped (final!) episode of Heroes together.

So enough with the complaining, and on to being thankful. The time I do have at home with my family I will cherish. And if the floor doesn't get washed... well... that's OK. The twinkling lights from the Christmas tree make a great distraction from the pile of junk mail on the kitchen counter.

Monday, December 3, 2007

my 30 seconds of national fame


video



For Slouching Mom, and everyone else who has asked, here is the national commercial I filmed in 2001. It played during flu seasons of 01-02 and 02-03. I think it is missing a few opening seconds of us lying in bed, coughing and miserable.

(do you see why I laughed when people wondered if The Big Guy was concerned about my being in bed with another man for this shoot?)

When I filmed this commercial my husband and I were house hunting in the greater Los Angeles Area. I knew not to count on the money from the commercial until I had it in hand because you only get the big bucks if the ad actually airs, and I had had plenty of friends film commercials that never made it onto the airwaves.

One day The Big Guy and I had looked at a little house we loved... 3 bedrooms, hardwood floors, nice neighborhood.. but just slightly out of our price range.

When we returned home there was a check in our mailbox... the check from this commercial. It made up the difference we needed for the down payment. We called our real estate agent and told him to make an offer.


And thus we bought our first home.


It may not be my most brilliant performance, but it was definitely my most lucrative.


It is frustrating, though, as an artist, to work long and hard on many live performances of which I am very proud, and were only seen by a few hundred (or, when I was lucky, a few thousand) people. And then I did this commercial and everyone I knew saw it, and called, and thought it was so great. So while I'm so glad that I did it, it's a bit sad, because there are many, many things I would rather be known for. And PAID for. (and why I can get paid so much for one day's work hawking a product, but can't get paid enough to buy my gas when I'm doing a play is a rant for another day...)


I don't have many of my shows on video, but I do have a few... and when my new computer is returned to working order I'll see if I can get any of them onto the computer. Live performances don't tend to translate well onto video, though, so be forewarned.

Additional random info... This 30 second spot took all day to film. We spent probably well over an hour shooting a shot where I push opened a door. It took me forever to get it right... they didn't want me to bend my elbow at all, and for some reason this was hard for me. Anyhow... I did finally get it right, and the darn shot never made it into the commercial anyways. We also spent a lot of time filming the very short shot where we turn from looking at each other to looking at the camera. The director wanted our heads to move, and not our eyes. I see that my eyes still move and look before my head does. AND, in one very silly moment, the director stuck a fake gun under my pillow and instructed me to pull it on my husband during a take... just for kicks and giggles. He had no idea it was coming. That would be a fun video to see. Oh. And the food they served us all? Incredible. When I showed up really early in the morning and was in the trailer waiting to start they asked if I was hungry. "Not really" I said. They insisted, they'd get me anything. "Maybe a muffin and some fruit" They asked what kind. "Whatever." They asked again. "Blueberry muffin, or whatever they have." They returned a few minutes later with a banana and FRESHLY made mixed berry muffin. Yum. Lunch, dinner and snacks were all delicious, too. All day long people told me how terrible I looked, as a compliment of course, since I was supposed to look sick. I didn't bother to tell them that I was wearing NO makeup. But apparently the difference between looking sick and looking happy, healthy and ready to sleep? Lip gloss. Now you know. And last but not least... the director of the video was a former member of the band Ratt. And no... he did not still have the big hair.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Soooo (x100,000) tired - Monday Mission

Hey there!

Dude, I am so tired. Soooooo (x100,000) tired. Doing way too much these days. And not nearly enough TV watching. I missed Desperate Housewives last night because of rehearsal. Did you record it? Can I borrow it? Don't tell me what happened - the whole tornado thing looked interesting. Maybe.

What did you do for your assignment in Ms. Painted's class? The 'write a paper like a blog post' one? I had no time to do the research for it - did it late at night when I got in from rehearsal. Totally uninspired. I'm sure it's crap, but whatever. I'm getting a pretty good grade in that class so one bad paper won't hurt too much. I hope. Whatever. How much of our final grade was it worth, anyways? Can't be that much.

But... did you see The Big Guy this morning? Looking extra hot with that new haircut. So I guess I can't complain too much. I am one lucky girl. Of course, if I stay this busy I won't be able to spend any time with him and then he'll dump me for sure and I'll be back in heartbreak city. So must make time for the Big Guy.

Sleep? Who needs it? Besides, I can always sleep in history class.

Crap. Pop Quiz! Gotta run... at lunch you have to tell me all about what happened to YOU this weekend.

C-Ya,

Maypole

******
This is my Monday Mission submission. I will tell you that I had BIG plans for this one... plans that involved actual writing on actual notebook paper and scanning it in. Plans that involved fancy folding and intricate doodling.

Plans that were torn asunder when my new computer (you know, the one I bought to replace the one that caught on fire) DIED eight days after we plugged it in. Won't even turn on. (It is being mailed back to be fixed - to the tune of an extra $50 on my credit card). So my scanner? Doesn't work with this old computer. Sigh. So please, cheer me up with YOUR Monday Mission posts. Post some kickin' stuff in the style of a high school note. Be creative. Make me laugh. Make me cry. Make me forget my computer woes. Make me forget this sorry post. Write your post and link it below. Please. Because if you do? I will write things in your yearbook like "Best Friends Forever" and "Keep in touch" and "Don't ever change" and "Call me." And you can't ever have too many BFFs in your yearbook.






Quickie Monday Mission info for newbies:
What are Monday Missions, you ask? Well. Monday Missions are a weekly (every Monday! Imagine that! Although I usually get mine up on Sunday to get the ball rolling...) carnival designed to encourage us to post in a certain style. They are basically a jumping off point for your imagination; encouragement for you to think outside of the the box; a chance to try writing in a different style. You are welcome to play along for any and all, or none at all, as your fancy strikes you.

The Missions for December are:

12/3 - High School note (the kind you would pass in class)

12/10 - Photoshop Extravaganza (you've read posts where others use photoshop to add humor or make a point. Now is your chance to try your hand at this.)

12/17 - Holiday List

12/24 - Family Holiday Letter (year in review...)

12/31 - New Year's Resolutions

Friday, November 30, 2007

a sharp intake of breath

I was driving home from rehearsal Thursday night, keeping myself awake as I crossed the 24 mile long (very boring!) bridge alone (no high school students to chauffeur in this cast) by getting down to some old school Prince. Seriously. Singing and, as much as possible while buckled into the seat of my minivan, dancing. And I looked out the window and gasped. The moon was just a bit over the water, a shocking orange against the night sky. It was stunning. And I nearly missed it while breaking down to Sexy MF.

Then tonight it happened again. I was driving on the bridge, this time on my way to rehearsal, and I gasped. The car in front of me? It's license plate? Had a SHARK on it. I may have to move to Florida just so I can get me one of those.

************
Don't forget that this upcoming Monday Mission is to write a post in the style of a High School note. See if you can pass it to me without the teacher seeing it, OK?

And rehearsals are going pretty well. Everyone was very impressed when I did my first scene and said all my lines in all the right places and in the proper British accent. You would think these people had never met a real actress before. No, I jest. Anyhow, they love me, it's fabulous. Everyone has been very nice to me, and I think it's going to be a fun run.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Once more unto the breach...

or at least once more onto the boards.

Today I accepted a small part in the play that is always done this time of year with the curmudgeonly old man who hates everything. Yes, that one. The theatre apparently fired an actress at rehearsal last night, and called me in a bit of a panic today. Thursday night will be my first rehearsal. Tuesday we have our first performance. All plans I had for the next week and a half (except for taking The May Queen to the Nutcracker on Sunday, which I told them was a make or break deal- I couldn't be at rehearsal until after that) have basically been waylaid for this (and then we'll settle into a more reasonable 3 shows a weekend schedule). Fortunately it is quite a small part, so learning the lines won't be a big deal. But there are several people working on this show that I will be pleased to have the opportunity to meet, and as I said to my husband "I get to enjoy the performances and cut out 5 weeks of rehearsing. It's perfect." Not that I don't love the rehearsing part, too.

And... perhaps once more into kitty bathing.

Tonight at dinner The May Queen mentioned she wanted to go "pet shopping." "You mean with your stuffed animals, pretend to go pet shopping?" "No," she said, "a real kitty."

I nearly spit my food all over the table, my husband was smiling a huge grin, and I could barely form any words. So, um... we'll see about this whole pet thing. Ack. Do you think yesterday's post brought me some bad pet karma or something? Actually, The May Queen LOVES animals, and so I am surprised it has taken her this long to figure out that she could ask to have one of her very own.

So... you will probably see a bit less of me for the next 10 days or so. But hopefully I will have more fun stories, even if I don't sing in a foreign language, kiss a girl or have an Italian director.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bathing Multiple Cats

When I married my husband he had 5 cats. Yes, 5. Indoor cats. I am allergic to cats. Yes, I deserve a medal. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED those cats, but for the 9 years that they were a part of our home I endured shots and pills to try to deal with the itching that they caused me. In addition to cleaning up cat puke, vacuuming up cat hair, emptying the litter box AND being the primary giver of all medicines (which got to be a daily thing as several of them aged). And the bathing. Oh, the bathing.

For yesterday's Monday Mission Rose Daughter wrote a post about bathing her children. Which made me think of the plan my husband and I concocted for bathing the cats. Mind you, we never actually did this, as it would involve building a series of pulleys and such, but we are sure that it would have been much better than the way we did it, which usually ended up with a lot of yowling (the cats, mostly) a fair amount of swearing (us, although the yowling of the cats could probably be pretty well interpreted as "what the H**l do you f***ing think you're doing, @$$holes!?!?") and some bleeding (again, us, usually followed by more swearing).

And so, I give you our plan for bathing multiple cats.

*To properly bathe cats in this fashion you need a bathtub/shower with a sliding glass door, and a fancy set of pulleys and such. You'll have to engineer the pulley system yourself. I am not the engineer, just the idea girl

- fill bathtub with warm soapy water
- close the sliding glass door
- pick up your beloved kitties and drop them into the tub, over the glass door
- as the multiple kitties scramble to get out of the tub, they will essentially scrub each other clean
- use one of your fancy pulley doohickeys to pull the plug and empty the tub
- use another pulley to turn on the shower, rinsing off the cats
- rinsing of the cats may also be aided by the pouring of jugs of water over the top of the tub (from the safety of the other side of the glass door, of course)
- when the cats are good and rinsed, stop the water.
- line the bathroom with lots and lots of soft, dry towels. Leave nothing of value out in the bathroom.
- if you have a bathroom heater, turn that on as well.
- exit the bathroom and CLOSE THE DOOR
- (if you have cats, like some of ours, who can open simple doorknobs, you may need to install an exterior lock)
- use another pulley system to slide open the glass doors. The cats will scramble out of the tub
- leave the cats in the bathroom for a while to dry off via their frantic rubbing on the towels and the heat from the heater
- while the cats are drying themselves put away anything breakable or shreddable in your home. Be sure to leave a nice full dish of food and some brand new cat nip toys closely outside of the bathroom to distract/bribe them before they can wreck too much havoc on the rest of your home in righteous revenge
- exit your home
- use another pulley system to open the bathroom door, letting the cats out into the house
- allow the cats to become sufficiently high on the catnip before reentering your home

See. Isn't that easier than bathing them yourself?

This public service announcement has been brought to you by the letter C and the number 5.

** EDITED TO ADD:
for the record, when we got married my husband had had these cats for 6-7 years already. Pets are like family members, I firmly believe. My husband was gracious enough to say that if I was unable to live with the cats, that we would get rid of them. (We also made a deal that we would not get any new cats. Who knew that 2 of them would live to be 16?) We did keep them out of the bedroom for a while, until the doorknob broke in our old home and the door was so old and of an odd thickness that we couldn't find one that fit, and then the cats could just push the door open, and so much for that. I was also told I would never change a litter box. Which lasted for about 2 years. (but I'm not bitter about that part at all. OK, yes, I am). We bathed the cats because doctors told me that would help cut down on the allergens. Admittedly, the longer we were married the less we bathed the cats. The trade off just did not seem worth it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

So you want to be an Opera Singer? - Monday Mission



How to get a part in the chorus of an opera.
(non-traditional method. May not work for everyone)

1 - notice that a local theatre company is having their general auditions
2 - take note of all the shows they are doing, and spend days trying to track down the music and scripts to the obscure musicals
3 - completely disregard the operas they are doing
4 - read the scripts and listen to the music
5 - choose a song with which to audition(going nontraditional and humorous like several of the musicals they will be producing. Find a song in your vocal range that shows off your acting abilities. for example, the Kate Monster portion of It Sucks to Be Me from Avenue Q)
6 - practice the 16 bars you will be singing. a lot
7 - scandalize entertain the rest of your praise team when you practice the song with the pianist one night at praise team practice. In your church sanctuary. (we do not recommend that you actually yell out the word "F*ck" at this juncture, just note its place in the song with a stomp of your foot.)
8 - practice an extra song to sing in case you are asked for a second piece, preferably something contrasting to the first piece. (such as Heaven Help My Heart, from Chess)
9 - attend the audition. Dress nicely
10 - on your audition sheet put down several of the characters you are interested in from the musicals, being sure to make it obvious that you are familiar with the less known pieces. Again, ignore the operas
11 - be nice to the pianist. He can make or break your audition
12 - get on stage. Introduce yourself confidently
13 - sing with gusto
14 - when the artistic director asks you if you have another song, reply "of course" and sing your second selection
15 - say thank you, exit the stage
16 - if, as you are leaving, the director asks you how your Italian is, be honest ("nonexistent")
17 - drive home and wait for a phone call
18 - when the call comes and you are offered a role in the chorus of 2 operas, stammer a bit, then agree to do the one which fits into your schedule


These Oh-So-Useful directions are provided for your benefit via Monday Missions. If you have some instructions that simply MUST be shared with the rest of the blogosphere, then please, put a link to your post in the widget below. And be sure to check out all the links to learn a few new things.





What are Monday Missions, you ask? Well. Monday Missions are a weekly (every Monday! Imagine that! Although I usually get mine up on Sunday to get the ball rolling...) carnival designed to encourage us to post in a certain style. I have found them to be very fun, and I usually use them humorously, but they don't have to be funny. They are basically a jumping off point for your imagination; encouragement for you to think outside of the the box; a chance to try writing in a different style. You are welcome to play along for any and all, or none at all, as your fancy strikes you.

The upcoming Missions for December are:

12/3 - High School note (the kind you would pass in class)

12/10 - Photoshop Extravaganza (you've read posts where others use photoshop to add humor or make a point. Now is your chance to try your hand at this.)

12/17 - Holiday List

12/24 - Family Holiday Letter (year in review...)

12/31 - New Year's Resolutions

***added bonus. For those of you with small children who follow that "It sucks to be me" link you will recognize the voice of at least one Sesame Street muppeteer (who I went to college with), and see John Tartaglia, known to your Playhouse Disney watching toddlers as Johnny (and the sprites!)

Friday, November 23, 2007

from Grumpies to Gratitude

On Thanksgiving Day The May Queen and I journeyed with a rather large group of people from my church to a shelter in the city. This shelter flooded during Katrina, and our congregation has been working hard to help them reopen their doors, which they did just about a month ago. The shelter takes in homeless women and their children, and works to help them get a job and a home. They provide childcare, education, job training, classes in cooking and parenting and money management. It is a small shelter, with strict restrictions on the residents. They expect a lot from those who use their services, but give a lot in return.

We had an embarrassing amount of people who wanted to go and help. It was a clear indicator that we need to provide more opportunities like this one. But no one minded that there were too many of us to fit in the kitchen. We played with the children in the nursery. We helped sort donations of clothes. We visited with the women and their children. Sometimes we just stood around, lost in our own thoughts. What would it be like to not have a home? To live in a place where you are at the mercy of others? To need the sort of help that these women need? What happens that these women and their children, these women with their pregnant bellies... what did life bring them that they now don't have anywhere else to go?

I felt so thankful for all that I have... even the money stresses and the husband out of town for the holiday.

Yet I got home and got the grumpies. I was lonely. I miss the holidays of my youth with lots of family, lots of laughter, a jigsaw puzzle on one table and a board game on another. The TV showing the parade and later football, but no one really watching. I was lonely in my house with just The May Queen and I. The blessings I had felt that morning were in my mind, but not so much in my heart.

So I decided to turn it around. If I'm thankful for it, I need to live that gratitude, right? So I announced that we would be eating dinner as a picnic in the living room. I spread out a blanket, turned on the gas fireplace (oh, how I miss real burning wood! but no, I would not dwell on the negative!), left the movie playing on the televison, and served leftovers on the floor. The May Queen thought this was delightful. Then I announced we would go for a walk. We bundled up and took the flashlight. The poor neighbors must have thought a drunk monkey was trying to shine a light in their windows as The May Queen pointed the flashlight at all the homes looking for the first signs of Christmas decorations. Then we held hands and skipped down the street. "This thanksgiving walk was a GREAT idea, Mama," she said. Perhaps the best compliment she has ever given me. I looked around and thanked God that I lived in a neighborhood where I felt safe taking my 5 year old for a skip around the block after dark. When we returned home we returned to the blanket in the living room for not one, but TWO servings of hot chocolate. "This hot chocolate was a GREAT idea, Mama," the May Queen enthused.

Two GREAT ideas in one night? Be still my heart.

It's amazing what a change in (gr)attitude will do. I didn't have a bustling family around me. I had a quiet evening with my lovely daughter. And I knew to be thankful for it, and acted like I was. And by the time I kissed her goodnight? Goodbye grumpies.


*******
Your Monday Mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a post in the form of directions:
Step 1 - Curse Painted Maypole for keeping up this dratted Monday Mission thing
Step 2 - remember that you wanted to play along at some point
Step 3 - decide this week is just as good as any other lame Mission PM puts forth
Step 4 - Write a brilliant post
Step 5 - come back here on Monday and post a link to your brilliant post
Step 6 - Mission Accomplished

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Living Thankfully

Last week I was leading a chapel for 60 or so preschool kids, talking about being thankful. I told them that being thankful is more than just saying "Thank You," although those are important words to say. I told them that we show our thankfulness by how we USE and TREAT what we've been given. That we show our gratitude for our hands when we use them to help someone or create art, but not when we hit. That we show our gratitude for our mouths and our voices when we sing songs or say nice things, but not when we call someone else a name.

As I was talking to these 3 and 4 year olds it hit me, as it often does when I'm teaching children, that these are lessons I need to learn as well. And so, here, a brief examination of some of the things that I am thankful for, and how I can show my gratitude in how I use and treat them.

I am thankful for my home - that it keeps me warm and dry (or cool and dry in the summer!), that it gives me a space to call my own and create a life with my family. I can show my gratitude for my home by creating in it an environment that is restful for my whole family, that provides space for playing and learning and loving. (this includes keeping it clean enough that I don't spend every moment in every room looking around in disgust, but too tired to do anything about it. I am working on this problem this week) I can take care of it,and fix the things that need fixing. I can show gratitude for my home by gladly welcoming others into it, for the afternoon or an extended stay.

I am grateful for my family, for my husband and child. I can show my gratitude for these gifts by carving out time for them, by enjoying who they are and not who I want them to be, by always assuming the best of them, by encouraging them and loving them unconditionally.

I am thankful for my body, for the amazing things that it does. I can show my gratitude for my physical being by putting foods into it that nourish it, rather than drain it. By exercising I can increase my health and my abilities, and thereby show my gratitude and my desire to keep this physical form. I can stop looking in the mirror and sighing in disgust at the imperfections I see, but rather marvel at my ability to pick up my child, skip through the sand, and dance to the music. By doing these things more often I show my thankfulness.

I am thankful for my God and my faith. I can show my gratitude for them by spending time deepening my relationship with God, and in trying to understand what He is calling me to do with my life. I can share my thankfulness with others, so that they might see the joy that I have in Him.

I am thankful for the gifts I have of performing - singing and acting. I can use these gifts humbly, without downplaying them and without making them to be more than they are. I can use them in the service of telling stories that connect us as human beings - that lift our spirit and challenge our thinking and help us find a common ground. I can sing praises and sing sorrow and sing comfort and sing joy. I can bring my gifts to the table in a spirit of unity and hope, and create art.

Oh... I could go on, but I don't want to bore you. Basically, though, I am trying to apply this to all areas of my life - if I am thankful for it, I need to LIVE out that gratitude. And if I am not thankful for it? Find a way to eliminate it, or find a way to be thankful for it.

What are YOU thankful for today, and how can you show your gratitude?

oh, quanto peni - Wordless Wednesday



(end of Act 2, scene 2. I am in the brown dress, just left of center. Soprano #3 on the floor.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Something lost, something gained

The May Queen and her friends were ready to leave the boat I had been rocking to run off and play on another part of the playground. I headed back to the book I had left sitting on the bench. On the other end of the bench sat a mother with a baby in a front carrier. As I sat down she apologized.

"For what? It's a public bench."

"My shoulders needed a break," she said, rocking the swinging bench with one foot.

"I remember those days," I said, admiring her baby.

"I just said to my husband 'Look at that mom over there. READING. With four water bottles at her feet. She must have a whole crew here.'"

I laughed. "I only have one, so I invited the neighbors along so I could sit and read. I remember when my daughter was little watching the moms with magazines sitting on benches with a great deal of longing."

She laughed.

"But I was just watching your daughter there with your husband, as they bounced on that platform. The way they giggled. I miss that."

She nodded. Her baby fussed. Too much stillness. "Time to get moving" she said as she got up and bounced her way over to join her older child and her husband at the swing set.

And I went back to my book.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I think, but I still need to eat - Monday Mission

They are poor. They are neglected. They are mocked and occasionally pitied. They are considered irrelevant, their field of study dead. They are locked away in towers and thought of as eccentric and unable to contribute to modern society.

They need your help.

Philosophers have families, too. Children that need to eat, regardless of whether their parents sit around all day pondering the first principals of Being.

Please make a donation to
The Unemployed Philosophers Guild. Maybe their children will be able to forge a better life for themselves.

This post is my contribution, as it were, to the Monday Missions, this week's mission being to write a post as a spiel for a real or imaginary charity. If you would like to play along write a post that fulfills the mission and post a link in the widget below.

The Unemployed Philosophers Guild is not actually a charity. They are, however, my Christmas tip to you if you are looking for a gift for your smart, fun and witty friend who does not need another scented candle. Instead may I recommend one of many finger puppets including Jane Austen and Hegel (or get the complete Axis of Evil set) , a giggling Mona Lisa pillow, the John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes T-shirt, or the naughty Shakespeare pillow. I have bought several presents from this site in the past, and now pass on my fabulous find to you. Just browsing through their site is a treat. And every gift I've given from them has been given rave reviews. It is owned by a bunch of philosophers, and they do give to charitable causes; you can read more about it here. I get no kickbacks from this little plug, I don't even know these people. But their catalog came the other day in the mail, and made me smile.

OK... now go read some other spiels...


the curtain closes

Today was our last performance for L@ Tr@viat@. I felt like I was just getting into the groove of it and really enjoying the performances (instead of stressing out about remembering it all) and they are over. I will likely never sing that beautiful music again. Except in the shower. Or my car.

Our soprano had not yet recovered, and our previous replacement couldn't do this show, so we had yet ANOTHER Violett@. This one was also phenomenal, and just nice as can be. However, I do think the musical soprano game was stressing out our director just a tad.

I'm sad to see it end, but ever so glad I had the opportunity to do it. How many people get to say they sang in a professional opera? Precious few. Too few. I never would have dreamed I would end up there. I auditioned for the theatre's season with a song from Avenue Q. Um... one of these things is not like the other! And yet here I am, singing Italian Opera and enjoying it. Sometimes I surprise even myself.

Speaking of surprising myself I will be surprised if I can come up with anything worthwhile for this Monday's Mission(how is that for a segue? Poor, I know, but it is 1:35 in the morning. Give me a break), which is to write a post as a spiel for a (real or imaginary) charity. But please, think of your own brilliant post and come back here on Monday and share it with everyone. I will be wracking my own brain over the next 20 hours or so. After I sleep. Ah... sleep....

Buona notte

Friday, November 16, 2007

The One that is like an Episode of Friends

Several of you seemed to enjoy the beginning of my engagement story, so I thought I'd share with you the rest of the story.

I was a junior in college, and The Big Guy and I had met the previous summer at the summer camp where I worked (He was on the board of directors. Technically he was my boss. It was a little too late by the time we realized this). It was February when his house burned. I think it was March when I came down with Mono, and April when he did. He managed to pass out a convention, and ended up in the hospital. He took several weeks off of work, and stayed for a time with his parents. He and his dad went shopping for what would be my engagement ring (of course, I didn't know that part of the story).

The Big Guy came out and stayed with me for a long weekend. It was May 12, a Saturday, I believe, and we spent the afternoon shopping for new clothes for him (as he had lost everything in the fire). We ate dinner at a Ruby Tuesday's and then shopped around the mall. At dinner I was cold, and asked to wear his jacket. He was reluctant to give it to me, wondering why I hadn't brought a sweater as he had suggested earlier. I didn't get his reluctance. Turns out the ring was in the pocket (and yes, yes, I know this happened on an episode of Friends many years after it happened to me in my real life. I should have copyrighted it!) We walked all around the mall, me wearing that jacket, and The Big Guy terrified to let go of my hand. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't go look at something on the other side of the store, but he kept me right by his side. He assumed I had found the ring, and was very nervous about it.

We then went and saw a play on campus (Nine) and then he asked me to go for a walk on the beach of Lake Michigan. We have a wee bit of history on that beach, as before we were dating he had to rescue my drunken self from a lifeguard chair I had climbed up but couldn't figure out how to climb back down.

I, however, thought it was too chilly out and wanted to go back to my apartment for a jacket before the walk. Reluctantly, he agreed. Once inside my cozy home I didn't feel like going back out. Can you imagine the frustration he was feeling by this point? Regardless, he forged ahead. We were sitting on my bed, talking, and suddenly he was down on one knee asking me if I knew that he loved me. I quickly figured out what was going on and felt so badly that I had ruined his plans. The beach would have been the perfect spot for such a proposal!

But as it turns out the situation was perfect. Because, as he will tell you, I've been ruining his surprises ever since.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Into the light

As I'm sure you have gleaned from my posts over the last several weeks, I love being in the theatre. It brings out the total geek in me as I do all sorts of research, and I get a lot of my energy from the dark of the wings and the light of the stage and the discovery of a character and the joking of friends and the watching of creative people at work.

But these past few days, I have really enjoyed being at home. I have enjoyed dinner with my family, curling up with a blanket and a book on the back porch, sitting in a lawn chair as my daughter and our neighbor rode bikes, the slanting late afternoon sun shining on their laughing faces. I've enjoyed crawling into bed at night (and, erm... late morning) next to my husband and not being beat tired. I've enjoyed seeing no new items in my Google Reader (for one brief, glorious moment two days ago). I've enjoyed going through the pictures my brother sent me from our time in England. I've caught up with friends on the phone. I've found that I do indeed have a kitchen counter and a dining room table. I have gloried in days with no where to be and no music to learn. I've started working out again. I am revelling in all this extra time, enjoying what I don't appreciate when I have it in abundance.

But I know I'll be glad to be back in the dark of the theatre come Saturday. And that is the balance that I have to find in my life. My focus is now on my family: since The May Queen was born I put her and my husband first. For YEARS I would put everything else on hold to do a show. I wouldn't plan a vacation for fear that I would miss an opportunity. I auditioned for everything. I turned nothing down. I'm happy to not be doing that anymore. But I need to find the balance. I can't go a full year between shows, because that part of me needs to be fed, too. Just as the sunlight through the trees lights up my daughter's hair and warms my heart, so the light from a fresnel awakes a part in me that laughs and cries and sings.

I need them both.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Unique Opportunity to Start Over

Years ago, when my husband and I were dating, he had a house fire. He awoke in the middle of the night, confused as to what the terrible noise was. He managed to clear the haze from his mind to realize that the haze in his bedroom was smoke. Lots of it. The noise was the smoke alarm. His 5 kitties had all passed out on his bed, unconscious from the smoke inhalation. He gathered them up in his comforter, dumped the whole thing in a laundry basket, and ran for the door. His home was next door to the church where he worked, so he dashed across the parking lot and into his office. He managed to save himself, his cats, that comforter, a few articles of clothing that were in the laundry basket, and the snow boots and winter coat he threw on for the dash across the snowy expanse between the building that burned, and the building that didn't.

The fire had started in the basement. The weather had been very cold and the heater had been running nonstop, and there was a nail that went through one vent and into the wooden beam inside a wall. The nail heated up, dried out that wood, and eventually, it took flame. By the time the alarm woke my husband up, the fire was inside every wall of his home (balloon construction... those beams went all through the house with air all around them, so the walls were burning from the inside). The next day as he and a friend stood looking at the house, or rather, what little was left of it (the staircase was there, but led to nothing...) his friend said

Think of this as a unique opportunity to start over.

It's a statement we still laugh about to this day, and trot out whenever something is lost. But truly, it was a unique opportunity. My husband was divorced, and the fire burned away much of what was left from that previous relationship. It also took away boxes of memorabilia that his mother had recently passed on from his childhood home.

He managed to salvage a few boxes of things from his office... all of it smoke and water damaged. A few CDs, some books, his baby book, some yearbooks. But that's it.

My husband has never been one to put much stock in THINGS, and so this wasn't as hard for him as it might have been for other people. Like me, for instance. But having this happen once made it easier to contemplate it happening again. As Hurricane Katrina drew nearer to our home and I watched its progress from a television in Kentucky, I knew that I might lose everything. And it didn't matter very much, as long as I had the people I cared about. When it comes down to the wire, that is all just stuff.

My heart broke a thousand times over as I watched friends and strangers shift through the detritus the storm had left behind. Although we were spared, many we know were not. I often said "I would rather the storm take EVERYTHING than to have to shift through and decide what to try to save from a pile of dirty and mouldy and rotten things." I do have a strong attachment to things and the memories that I associate with them.

But to have all your things gone, wiped clean. It is a unique opportunity to start over. To start only keeping the things you want to keep. That you love. That matter to you. And to always know that they are fleeting, and just things. It's a unique opportunity to turn your focus on to the other things in your life.

Shortly after my husband's house fire, he proposed to me.

A unique opportunity to start over, indeed.

*******
This post is part of Julie's Hump Day Hmmm... Today's topic was to "think about loss, what we value, and potential gain. Let's write about that. Imagine losing all your material possessions (except the few you can carry)... Or, tell us a story about some sort of loss. If you can inspire through hope, and tell us about something you gained from it, and real value, please definitely do that."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Show Must Go On

Are you tired of all opera, all the time? Sorry. I'm sure this is not what you thought you were signing up for when you started reading my blog. Now that the show is no longer in rehearsals, and we only have one more performance, we will soon be returning to our regularly scheduled program of... um... what is my regularly scheduled programming?

Our performances this weekend were a perfect example of the term "the show must go on." I mentioned that our lead soprano came down with laryngitis. She did not recover. So a lovely lady from our a local opera company stepped up to do the part. She was phenomenal. She had performed the role before... about a DECADE before. Seriously. Our chorus master stood in the wings with a score and spoke the Italian lines to her before she sang them. She did beautifully. Sure, there were a few dead spaces, and a spot where she grinned knowingly at the conductor while she sang words from a different part of the song, clearly unable to recall what exactly she was supposed to be singing at that moment. And probably lots of other moments that I missed because I was tucked away backstage. But it was stunning. She was kind and gracious to the whole cast, and I, for one, am so grateful for her, because otherwise the show would have been cancelled, and after the hours I spent working on it I would have been rather sore about that point.

On Saturday night, opening night, my husband drove down from the conference he was attending to see the show. I think I owe him a lot for that one. The supertitles(projected English translation) weren't working and there was no synopsis of the plot in the program (he said "I've been to Shakespeare plays where they give you more information, and those are done in English!") so he basically had no idea what was going on. When anyone asks him how it was he responds "It was three hours of singing in Italian." He did tell me, rather graciously, that we sounded great, the orchestra was great, I looked great, and that he wasn't bored. I'm not sure I believe all of it, but I'll take it! I spent the drive home explaining to him what had happened. And he made no comment at all about my kissing a woman on stage.

The next night the supertitles were working... sort of. There were none for the final scene, and apparently sometimes they flew by so fast that you couldn't read them. My friends who came to see it took to making up their own story lines. I haven't gotten the whole scoop on their imaginings yet, but I do know that the lead was not dying of TB, but rather a venereal disease, and the father of her lover managed to catch it as well (ahem). I think the rest will be just as fun to learn about.

The audiences seemed very appreciative regardless, and we had a good time. The cast party was fun (although I think I may have actually AVOIDED the director, since I had already written my previous post and couldn't see him without thinking about it), and I left as people were gathering around the piano singing beautiful Italian songs. Can I impress upon you how much talent was in that small room? It was astonishing.

Rumors have it that someone was videotaping the performance, but it hasn't shown up on youtube yet. Next weekend I should be getting some pictures from our dress rehearsal, but in the meantime, here is one of me in costume taken backstage:

Monday, November 12, 2007

A New Life? - Monday Mission

Scene: A cast party. The sounds of laughter and glasses clinking in the background. Chorus Member sits next to a pool filled with floating candles shaped like Camellias. Sexy Italian Director approaches and sits next to her.

Sexy Italian Director: Chorus Member. You are so fun to watch on the stage. You are so good at the acting.

Chorus Member: Grazie.

Sexy Italian Director: And your kissing of the other girl. It is very sexy.

Chorus Member: Umm... thank you.

Sexy Italian Director looks Chorus Member intensely in the eyes, and leans in for a kiss. Chorus Member stops him.

Chorus Member: This is not a good idea.

Sexy Italian Director: Why not? Two beautiful people? What could be more, how do you say, natural?

Chorus Member: I'm married.

Sexy Italian Director: He does not have to know.

Chorus Member: I would know.

Sexy Italian Director: I see.

Pause. Sexy Italian Director backs off, but then grabs Chorus Member passionately.

Sexy Italian Director: Run away with me.

Chorus Member: What?

Sexy Italian Director: I will buy you a ticket to come back with me to Milan.

Chorus Member is stunned into silence.

Sexy Italian Director: We can live together. You do not need to pack. I will take you shopping when we arrive. I will sing to you Italian love songs, and you will say to me the Shakespeare. We will make love all day and all night.

Chorus Member's jaw hangs open like a dead fish.

Sexy Italian Director: Say yes.

Chorus Member: No.

Sexy Italian Director: No? Why no?

Chorus Member: I'm married. I'm a mother. I have floors to wash and laundry to do and bills to pay and dinners to cook and noses to wipe and toys to trip over and....

Her voice trails off.

Chorus Member: When can we leave?

Sexy Italian Director grabs Chorus Member and they kiss. Lights fade to black.

****************
This in no way represents any cast party I have actually attended this weekend. Nor does it represent any actual conversation had between any theoretical chorus member or director of an opera (except as already stated). Nor does it in any way indicate that said chorus member would leave her husband and child for a life of luxurious Italian living. No, it is simply a Monday Mission post. If you wish to play along write your own post as script/dialogue and come back here and leave a link to your post in the widget below.

And pray that today is not the day my husband decides to start reading my blog. Hi honey! Or that anyone in my show finds this blog. Particularly the director.