Friday, April 29, 2011

RDC: Fighting Words

This week's assignment for The Red Dress Club was to write about a fight--fiction or non-fiction. Once again, I'm using this to write about my character Michaela. You can read some of my previous pieces with her by clicking on the tab above marked The Story of Michaela.

Fighting Words

            I was still mad. No, not mad. Mostly embarrassed. Laverne was trying to help and I was a bitch to her. I hate to be the bad guy. But no doubt about it this time around I was the bad guy. I was tired and having a rough day, but really it’s not excuse. Laverne was just stopping by to help like she always does. She brought dinner and a game for the kids.
            “You really don’t need to do that,” I said.
            “I know I don’t, honey. I want to.”
            It was great to have so much help. But it was getting to me now. I appreciated it. I really did. But I needed to start doing things on my own. Sooner or later there weren’t going to be casseroles in the fridge to reheat or people offering to pick up the kids at soccer or dance. The kids and I needed to learn to be a family without a father.
As if Laverne read my thoughts, she said, “Take the help while you’ve got it.”
            “That’s just it Laverne. I need to learn to do things on my own. Sooner or later the help is going to dry up.”
            “I know honey. Believe me, I raised three boys on my own. I know what it’s like.”
            “But you don’t know what it’s like,” I insisted. “Barry’s dead. We didn’t just get a divorce.”
            I wished I could take it back the moment the words left my mouth. If I had slapped her, she couldn’t have looked more hurt.
            “Just divorced?” she asked.
            “I mean…”
            “That’s right. I was just divorced. My husband had a choice and he chose to leave. Barry didn’t want to leave you did he?”
            “Laverne, I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have…”
            “I don’t know what it’s like. You’re damn right. Your husband didn’t walk out so he could chase pussy. He didn’t leave until someone killed him. He left you with a home and life insurance. Leroy never gave me one penny of child support. Even dead, Barry was a better husband than mine was while he was alive.”
            She had never talked about her first husband before. I knew Casey was the second time around, but I didn’t know anything about the father of her children until now.
            “I bet Barry even told you he loved you the last time you saw him,” she said.
            He had. I was cleaning out the garage. I was covered in dust and cobwebs. I told him not to touch me so he wouldn’t get dirty. He did anyway. He pulled me to him, wrapped his arms around me and kissed my sweaty forehead. “I’ll see you in twenty minutes. I love you babe.”
            “I love you too,” I said as I watched him walk away. I still thought we had a lifetime together.
            Laverne turned to walk out of my house. She had held me together when I was falling apart and now I had hurt her. I couldn’t stand to lose her friendship right now. “Please don’t go,” I said. “I’m so sorry. It’s just that everyone has been telling me how to feel or saying they know how I feel. I forgot that some people actually do. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself today. It doesn’t excuse what I said. Please forgive me.”
            Laverne stopped and nodded. “I guess you’re allowed a little pity party every now and then.”
            “You are too, you know.” I said.
            “Nah. I’ve outgrown them. And you will too honey. You will too.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How I Spent my April Vacation

            Last week my boys were out of school for April vacation week. I feel strangely proud of how well it went. Our winter break in February was an absolute disaster—we took turns passing around the flu and a stomach virus. Every fun thing we had planned got cancelled—play dates, museum visits, parties. It was just plain lousy. My youngest son missed six days during the third quarter this year, if it hadn’t been for February school vacation week he would have missed at least ten days.
            April vacation on the other hand, was fun without being over programmed. We went to the local craft museum, had a play date with cousins, an egg hunt with some other cousins, played games, colored eggs, and generally had a good time. The highlight of the week though, was our hike in the Blue Hills. Blue Hills Reservation is a great little state park right outside of Boston. 
If you look very closely, you can see Boston in the distance.

            I feel like we don’t get outside enough anymore. It’s almost 4:00 by the time they get off the bus and then they have homework and after school activities. By the time the kids have any free time, the sun has gone down and their interests usually turn toward something electronic. So it wasn’t just music to my ears when Owen said, “This is cooler than blasting battle droids on my PSP.” It was a complete symphony. 
Hiking rocks!

Better than video games, indeed!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Diet? What Diet?

            My regular readers might recall that back in January I did the very foolish thing. I publicly announced that I was going on a diet. My doctor had informed me that I packed on an extra fifteen (or so) pounds—and that was before Christmas. Despite my feeling that New Year’s resolutions are just plain silly and knowing that January is the worst possible time to start a diet. I went on and on about how I was going to stick to the diet prescribed in the book The 400 Calorie Fix. I ordered the book and then pretty much forgot about it. I mean seriously January is cold and dark. It’s the perfect season for baking and eating, watching old movies, even writing in your journal—but weight loss? Not so much.
            Dieting simply wasn’t going to happen in the darkest days of winter--especially while I was directing a show. By the time late March arrived, I was living on pizza, cheeseburgers, Guinness and black coffee. Here’s the weird part. I didn’t gain any more weight. I chalk it up to adrenaline and dumb luck. It certainly is not the path to health and well-being. 
            But now my show is over, and so are my excuses. I’m proud to say that I’ve finally gotten around to not only reading The 400 Calorie Fix but also implementing it into my life. The book recommends eating four four hundred calorie meals a day and is loaded with information about what 400 calories can be. It offers choices at fast food and chain restaurants, frozen dinners, and easy to prepare meals. There is also a cookbook section with some great recipes but the book is primarily about learning to identify a 400-calorie meal. There are many photos in the book to help you “see through a 400 calorie lens” as they say.
            The book also has a 1200-calorie a day “quick start” plan, which they recommend for doing no more than two weeks. I tried for the first few days. While it did work (I shed the first few pounds quicker than I anticipated), I felt much less likely to cheat when I was eating the 1600 calories a day. Besides, experience tells me that losing weight that quickly means it’s going to come back as soon as you go back to “normal”.
            So far, the strategy is working well for me. Years ago I tried the old 5 small meals a day and never succeeded. The meals were either so small I felt unsatisfied or too large to eat five times a day. Four hundred calories on the other hand is can be quite filling—as long as you plan well. Obviously if you eat 400 calories worth of potato chips you’re going to be hungry (and probably malnourished) soon.
            The thing I like most about this plan is the flexibility. You don’t cut out any one kind of food like with low-carb and low-fat diets. Plus, how and when you eat those 400 calories is up to you. So for those evenings that I have the night off and I want to watch a movie with my husband I can save a “meal” for that time. I’ll spend my fourth 400-calorie meal on a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers. On days when I’m really active with my kids, I usually need a snack to pick me up in the afternoon instead.
            I even made it through my family’s Easter brunch without going calorie crazy. I filled up my plate with fruit and steamed asparagus, then took very small portions of the roasted red potatoes and ham that my sister made and the pancetta and spinach quiche my mother made. Okay… I had to go back for seconds on the quiche—it was SO good. I also went easy on the scones and other baked goodies. And I didn’t steal any jellybeans or chocolate from the kids (although the remains of the Easter egg hunt continue to haunt me).
            I’m very pleased with the results so far. I’ve lost around six pounds in just over a week. More importantly I don’t feel as if I’m depriving myself of anything. While I promise not to turn this into a diet blog, I will keep you updated. The 400 Calorie Fix seems like a common sense and realistic approach to weight loss.

Friday, April 22, 2011

RDC: Michaela's Playlist

            It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had time to participate in The Red Dress Club meme. I’m happy to be back for this week’s assignment: "Take a character from one of your stories and examine his or her iPod playlist. What 10 songs best describe the character?" I’ve been using these exercises to provide a back-story for the characters of my (very slowly) developing novel.

Michaela’s Playlist

            Laverne walks into the house as I am lacing up my running shoes. She never fails to arrive. Every Saturday morning she comes into my house with a box of Dunkin’ Doughnuts Munchkins for the kids and coffee for herself. The kids awake from their stupor in front of Saturday morning cartoons at the sound of her voice.
            “Laverne! Laverne!” They hug her and take the box of sweets into the living room.
            “Thanks Laverne. You don’t need to bring those every week.” I told her.
            “I know I don’t have to Michaela. I want to. Now you go on your run and let me play with my babies.” She snuggled into the couch with John and Brianna.
            A few weeks after Barry died, Laverne showed up at my house armed with doughnuts and coloring books. I had always gone for a long run on Saturday mornings while Barry watched cartoons with the kids. With him gone, I stopped running. Laverne knew I needed to get back on the road. I was in pain and didn’t even have the outlet I needed for normal day-to-day stress. She didn’t ask if she could come by—she knew I would have refused the offer. So she just showed up one gorgeous 55ยบ spring morning and told me to go running. She hasn’t missed a week since.
            I grabbed my iPod and headed out the door. I hadn’t updated my playlist for a long run in a while, so I just hit shuffle and started walking to warm up.

On my Own from Les Miserables. Ugh—beautiful song, but ringing a little too true with me these days. I listen for a moment or two but skip to the next song before I start to get weepy.

I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends by the Beatles. I laugh as it begins to play. Laverne and my other friends (now called “the aunties” by my children) took up the responsibility to help me in so many ways. They arranged to have my lawn mowed, saw to it that I never ran out of milk or toilet paper, and took the kids outside to play so I could hide under my covers and cry. They gave me time to grieve and heal. Plenty of folks showed up with casseroles the week or two after Barry died. But “the aunties” didn’t stop coming.

Stuck in a Moment by U2. Yes I was. But I’m not any more.

Ready to Run by Dixie Chicks. Yes I am. I pick up the pace and start to jog.

Are you Strong Enough to be My Man by Sheryl Crow. I think of Adam trying to figure out what I want and what I need. It seems strange to have a boyfriend, if that is what he is, after having a husband for eleven years.

The Lord’s Arms by Ben Harper. Maybe hitting shuffle wasn’t such a good idea. I try to keep pace as I listen to the lyrics and try to find comfort knowing Barry is at peace.

For Good from Wicked. I wonder if he knew. I was never stingy with my affection. I always told him I loved him. But did he know? Did he really know that I was a better person because he was in my life? I find myself walking instead of running and pick up the pace again. He would want me to keep running. I am all the kids have now. I have to care for this heart and this body.

Hammer and a Nail by The Indigo Girls. I take a deep breath and resume my pace. It’s time to get to work. Keep this body in shape. Keep this family in tact.

Happy Ending by Sugarland. I’m running at a steady of pace now. A happy ending is just what I need.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An Award? Moi?

            So last week (or the week before—I’m not sure I was in a parallel universe of community theatre) I was honored with my very first blogging award! Patricia Iles of the blog Contemplating Happiness has bestowed upon me The Versatile Blogger Award:

            Stop by her blog and say hi In order accept this award I am supposed to give my nominator a shout out (see above), tell seven random things about myself, and nominate fifteen of my favorite bloggers. I’m going to be a party pooper and only nominate eleven. Not because I don’t have fifteen bloggers that I adore, but because many of my favorites have already been bestowed with this honor.
So here are my seven random facts…

            1.) I am BAD with names. I know, everyone says that, but I’ve been known to call my son Sammy. Sammy is our cat. This is genetic—my mother and grandfather passed it on.

            2.) However, I am REALLY good at remembering food preferences (also genetic—same branch of the family tree). If we have lunch together and you tell me you don’t like celery in chicken salad, I will remember it forever. If I get you coffee once, I will always know you like it black with two sugars. If you prefer Canada Dry over Schweppes ginger ale I’ll have it on hand when you come to visit. But I’ll probably call you Stanley (unless your name is Stanley, in which case, I’ll call you Fred).

            3.) I have some strange physiological trait that destroys printers. It can’t be explained—maybe some sort of electro magnetic impulse. This is not that I’m not as tech-savvy as I’d like to be (although that IS true). My very intelligent and logical engineer husband can attest to this phenomenon.

            4.) I did my very first show in sixth grade. It was a lip-synch musical comedy written by a student teacher called, “Fabulous Fixed Franks”. There is no video—God be praised!

            5.) I love clothes but hate shopping. I particularly hate shopping with other people. I absolutely cannot relate to the multi-generational group shoppers that frequent my place of business. It does not take a party of eight to pick out a mattress for a single 30-year-old woman.

            6.) I always mean to take a nap and then I get distracted and miss out. 

            7.) I’m going to be forty this summer, so I’m going to have to change the name of this blog. Suggestions?

            So here are some of my favorite bloggers in no particular order…

Nancy is one of the first bloggers I began following. I love her writing style.

I stumbled upon this blog pretty recently. Tulpen is a mother of two and a nurse. Some of the things she writes will make you say, “I can’t believe she wrote that.” But you’ll be glad she did.

Spuds is a single dad of six kids who has recently taken up farming. I have no idea how he finds time to blog.

A regular at the Red Dress Club Ericka Clay is a writer, mother and struggling vegan. Check out her blog and enjoy what happens when blogging and wine collide. 

Que is a dad blogger who never fails to make me laugh.

Erin is an exceptionally talented writer. She is the real thing.

Katie is a former English teacher and homeschooling mom as well as an Orton-Gillingham tutor. If you have an emerging reader in your household, her blog has some great information. Plus, she’s my sister—my family loves words.

Ash is a very talented writer. I love her blog posts, but the snippets of fiction she shares knocks my socks off.

From the “one of these things does not belong” category. This is the only blog on the list NOT written by a parent. My very talented niece writes about pop culture, politics and her study abroad.

Sara Taney Humphreys is one of the hardest working paranormal romance authors in the business. Never heard of her? You will.

One of the latest bloggers I’ve discovered. Angie is a mother of two little boys in Australia. Like yours truly she is petite environmentally efficient. 

        I hope you have a chance to check out one or two of my favorite bloggers. Now, I'm going to see if I can sneak in a nap.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


            I have no right to feel as awake as I do right now. It is the final weekend of my show, The Secret Garden (you can read the reviews on the right-hand sidebar). There was a cast party last night at the home of our illustrious music director and her husband our equally illustrious lighting designer. There was pizza and wine and a gorgeous grand piano and three people in attendance who knew how to play it. And of course, there was a house full of people who are not shy about singing in public. I even dusted off my rusty pipes and sang. It was 2am when I reluctantly said my goodbyes.
            There are going to be a lot of goodbyes this weekend. It’s hard to describe how close you become to your cast and crew from auditions to the final curtain.  It’s only eight weeks and now these people are family. We’ve been together when we’re tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. We’ve worked through sore throats, missed cues, and technical problems. And we’ve laughed at inside jokes and shared memories of previous shows. We gave each other support when things didn’t go well and praise when things went beautifully. It is strange that in January most of these people were strangers.
            Monday morning I’ll be fine. I’ll catch up on some housework, spend some time with my boys (they’re on spring break this week), perhaps do some writing for my poor neglected blog, and make a real dinner with ingredients that didn’t come out of the freezer. Tuesday however, is going to be tough. I spent the last ten or so Tuesdays rehearsing with some of the most talented people I’ve ever met. This Tuesday I’m working the night shift at a furniture store.
            So tonight and tomorrow I’m going to sit and enjoy the art I created with these wonderful people. I’ll be grateful for the opportunity to direct one of the most beautiful musicals ever written. I’m going to relish every moment I spend with my new friends before and after the show. I’ll raise a toast in their honor at the cast party and try to tell them how much I’m going to miss them. But first, I’m going to Target to pick up a case of tissues.

This one is for my glorious cast!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Few Words from the Director

The following is the director's note for the program for my production of The Secret Garden...

When I was a little girl, my family spent summers exploring national parks like Yellowstone, Banff, Yosemite, and Canyon De Chelly. There were no televisions in cars then and no video games. We didn’t even bring along a portable radio the first few years. There was a stereo in the motor home—it had an eight-track tape player. So when traveling from one destination to another we did a lot of reading.
One of the books I remember most clearly was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Most people wouldn’t classify The Secret Garden as a fantasy novel, but to a well-loved, well-cared-for, American girl hiking in cut off jeans and a Camp Yomechas tee shirt, nothing seemed more unreal than the life of Mary Lennox. Born in India at the turn of the 20th century to British parents who ignore her and raised by a series of ayahs (Indian nannies), Mary awakens one morning to find that everyone she knows has died or fled in the night during a cholera outbreak. She is sent to Yorkshire, England to live with an uncle she has never met in his large and gloomy home. There she meets her invalid cousin Colin who has been shut away since his mother died giving birth to him. Together, with the help of their Yorkshire friends, they begin to heal—Colin physically and Mary spiritually as they reawaken Colin’s mother’s garden and make the first friendships of their young lives. 
            I loved the foreignness of the story as a child. And yet, there was something I could relate to—the healing power of nature and the importance of connecting with others. At night, I read about Colin growing stronger as he dug in the earth while I spent my days looking for new kinds of wild flowers and skipping stones in mountain streams. As I read about Mary learning to care about others, I was learning to make friends with children I met while traveling. My life couldn’t have been more different than Mary and Colin’s and yet there is something universal about their story—we all need growing things and the company of others.
            As an adult, I fell in love Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon’s musical version of The Secret Garden. Norman expanded the stories of the adult characters, but like any good adaptation, it is true to the themes of the novel. Simon’s score is glorious with lighthearted songs like “Show Me the Key”, heart wrenching ballads like “How Could I Ever Know”, and powerful ensemble numbers like “House on a Hill” .
            When the Board of Milton Players asked me to interview to direct The Secret Garden I was beyond excited—and a little scared. This is a very demanding show for a performer. We needed people who could really sing—what if they didn’t show up at auditions? But show up they did! I feel so blessed to work with a cast and crew that are not only talented, but generous, adventurous, and kind as well. Many director’s notes that I have read and written end by telling the audience to sit back, relax and enjoy the show. This time however, I suggest you come to our garden and open your heart to the sights and sounds of springtime.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Theatrical Thursday

Instead of a regular blog post, I'd like to share with you the reason I have been neglecting my blog lately. The show I've been working on since February opens tomorrow night. I have been at the theatre for hours every day, living on black coffee and fast food. I have callouses on my hands from set work. My eyes are red from sleep deprivation and stage dust. And I've never felt better. I love this show. I love this cast. And I love how supportive my family has been through this adventure.

Here is my very first attempt at using a video camera and iMovie. Ladies and gentleman, I give to you the cast of Milton Players production of The Secret Garden, directed by yours truly.