Monday, January 30, 2012

Anxiety, Depression and Guilt - Oh My!

Anxiety - what is going to happen next? Is this little period of disquiet over? Have I placated everyone who needs placating? Have I done enough? What have I missed? What is around the corner?

Depression - I'm not able to keep up with placating everyone. People - my family, my friends, my co-workers, my students - they are all counting on me for things and I'm not doing those things well. Or I'm not doing them at all. Depression defies description. It's a gateway to and also a result of anxiety.

Guilt - seriously, there are SO many other people who have it SO much worse and I don't see them losing it. I should get out of my own head enough to go help them - to be there for them and be strong. Or at least learn something from the way they handle themselves and their situations. Who am I to think that my problems are so big? It's not about me. The world doesn't revolve around me. My problems and feelings are relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. There are so many people who have it so much worse than I do - how can I be bothered by such little things?

These are the thoughts in my head every time I get upset. So I stifle the feelings. I pound down the disappointment, the sadness, the anger or whatever I'm feeling at whatever event has just taken place. How can I be upset about "x" when people I know have just experienced "y", which is SO much worse? I cannot seem to give myself permission to have a bad day. Or at least to SHOW that I've had a bad day. I will tweet about it, but that's about it. Most of the time if I actually interact with a person face to face, or even over the phone, I'll say that I'm fine or I'll downplay the pain. OR I'd stay home until the feeling passed so I wouldn't have to see anyone face to face at all.

But I'm not dealing with it. I'm packing it away to be dealt with some other time. Only . . . I never get to the other time on my own so it builds and builds and it's its own vicious cycle. Some things I've never really dealt with. And they do come back up only to be pounded back down.

Will this post ever see the light of day? Will I be courageous enough to put it out there? Or will I lock it down tight and put on my game face? And if I do post it, will I tell anyone it's here?

* * * * * *

I'm feeling better today - one day after I wrote this and locked it down. I feel almost normal again. I guess I succeeded in packing it all back up.

So my question to myself is - do I now just have perspective on what has been troubling me and can see that it's not what I thought it was? Or have I packed it so tight that I'm not allowing myself to work through it? I do know that I have a tendency to accept my circumstances and "deal with it" rather than even investigate whether or not those circumstances can change. Am I THAT afraid of change? ;-) Or . . . are my problems really that insignificant that a good night's sleep (or two) show that to me? I remember when we were going through a horrible time with Buddy, I just kind of accepted it and endured. I did try to find help, but when I kept being met with "no, we can't help", I didn't question it. Am I doing that now? Am I just accepting that I'm going to have ups and downs and that when I have a trigger I just suck it up until I'm functional again and then move on? Or do I address the trigger, eliminate it and THEN move on?

I don't have the answers. Not even to the question of whether or not I'll post this. All I know right now is that I'm not on the verge of tears, my heart is not threatening to beat out of my chest, and I can breathe without sounding like I'm in a yoga class.

So now I'll try to get caught up on all the stuff I didn't do yesterday - like laundry, lesson plans, blocking a scene, grade book, etc. And I'll pray that I things will continue to smooth out.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Spectacular Spectacular

Several weeks ago a friend of mine invited me to join her for the Alamo Drafthouse Moulin Rouge Singalong on January 26. I jumped at the chance. I had never been to a singalong at the Drafthouse, I love spending time with Jill, and I really liked what I had seen of Moulin Rouge. Sounded like fun. Fun is an understatement.

I had never really seen Moulin Rouge. At least not all the way through. I had seen segments of it here or there while channel surfing, and then there was the time I tried to watch it on our portable DVD player only to have it die 10 minutes in, but I had never watched from opening credits to closing. Even if I had seen Moulin Rouge from start to finish, I couldn't really say that I had seen it because I had only ever watched it on a small screen. Nope, that's NOT the way to see - to EXPERIENCE - Moulin Rouge. It is a Big Screen Movie.

Oh, Baz, how I do love you.

I wasn't sure what to expect. They passed out props (a small rubber frog, a glow stick, a light-up ring and a maraca) so I knew that the interaction was more than just singing. I was almost afraid that it was going to be a Rocky Horror type of experience. That's fine and I love Rocky Horror, but I thought that Moulin Rouge wasn't cheesy enough for a full-on Rocky interaction. The guys at Action Pack who created this singalong know what they are doing. None of the interactions were cheesy. None of them disrespected the love story and the passion. They were all just clever additions to what was happening on screen. Three moments stand out: I think my favorite prop participation was the glow sticks during the absinthe induced fairy scene. Perfect. Then the Moulin Rouge version of Roxanne was enhanced beyond belief by the audience stomping to the beat. It was amazing to feel the beat through the floor. But what really gave me chills was the confetti cannon during the height of the two love songs - when the screen filled with glitter/stardust/confetti, they shot off a confetti cannon and the entire movie theatre was filled with ticker tape! The effect was magical.

Moulin Rouge is a masterpiece, and I don't say that lightly. (Sometimes I get caught up in the hype of certain films - I tend to gush over movies that, upon second viewing, were just mediocre. I do that less and less now as I, ahem, mature. It could also be that I don't watch films as much as I used to - time constraints and budget constraints will do that - so I tend to do more research into quality.) Declaring Moulin Rouge a masterpiece is not me going overboard just because I had a fun night. And it's not just because of the visuals, the style, the performances, the genius way that modern songs were integrated into turn of the (last) century Paris. It was also the effect that the film had on the audience. I was very conscious of the people around me and how they were experiencing the film. Every one of us in loved the movie. Not just an "I really like this movie", but in a deep, respectful, almost reverent way. (One or two people tried to shout a heckle and were very quickly shut down - not by "shush" or "stop", but by silence. No one was going to come out of their viewing experience to give attention to someone who obviously didn't "get" it.) The entire audience viewed the film together - it was not just a bunch of people watching a movie in the same location.

I've mentioned before that I'm a theatre brat. I grew up on and back stage. This is a perfect movie for me - the story of the performers, the theatrical nature of the cinematography and direction, the lights! The costumes! (Sorry. I got carried away.) It's a very powerful experience for me when a film transcends the screen and becomes more tangible and more immediate. (Like the climax of Jaws.) In the hands of a genius, film can be more than just a story told on a screen. Even on its own at a regular screening or, not ideally, on the small screen at home, Moulin Rouge is a cinematic treat. The genius of Baz Luhrmann is that his film is so passionate and creative that it inspires the same passion in its viewers. It is not content to be merely on a screen - large or small. It almost literally demands to be more. I am so thankful that I live in a city where there are people meeting those demands. Many, many kudos to Action Pack and the Alamo Drafthouse for experiences like this one. And many, many thanks to Jill for sharing the experience with me!!!!

Now I hear that they are working on a Little Shop of Horrors singalong . . .

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rock Polishing

The word "change" can elicit a multitude of responses. Some are verbal ("Yes!", "NO!", "When?", "NOW!", " 'Bout time." etc.), and some are emotional (panic, dread, excitement, confusion, etc.). It's a loaded word. And no matter if the change is good or bad, it is almost always unsettling. Something is going to be different.

This week I have felt very conflicted, frustrated and just plain unsettled. I do not have a counselor or therapist to talk to, so I will either tweet, blog or just sit and stew until I figure out what's going on. Many tweets and stew sessions later, I realize that the past few weeks has been all about change. No wonder I feel shaken.

For starters, my teaching schedule for next year has changed. I was going to be teaching 5th-8th grade Musical Theatre for two sessions, 9th-12th grade Musical Theatre for three sessions, and Film Making for three sessions. (We're on a three trimester system in our school. Or . . . we were.) After several versions of schedules were discussed, I'm teaching one session of 5th-8th grade (in those grades we went back to a two semester system), three sessions of 9th-12th (still trimesters there) and two sessions (trimester 2 and 3) of Film Making. All of this is going to work really, really well. I'm not complaining about the change - I'm actually happy about it because my courses don't overlap as much and I think I'll be a more effective teacher as a result. But . . . it's change. I'm having to shift my thinking for next year (and yes, I've already begun to think about next year - sometimes teachers do that in January. Especially when course descriptions for the course catalog are due).

The children's ministry at our church (in which my husband and I are very involved) has lost both the director and the assistant director in the past two months. Because of this change, the staff has decided to change the entire Vacation Bible School model this year. They want to "take it to the communities" and have meetings in back yards and community centers. This would effectively eliminate my involvement. I have been heading up the program for VBS (the opening and closing assemblies where we have skits, worship music and activities) since 2006. I love doing it - it's like doing a week of children's theatre once a year. It's a blast and we reach a LOT of kids. I told the head of the committee on Sunday that I thought the off-site idea was a big mistake, but I don't know if I have any clout. This particular change is upsetting and disappointing on top of being different. (However, it might mean that I just had two weeks in July open up. Road trip?)

Then there are little things - Hubby's schedule changing from week to week, basketball games changing, one of Princess' teachers abruptly left and now I have to break in a new one (ha!), I'm trying to fit in a workout now so my daily schedule has changed. It's a lot. I think it's enough to account for the unsettled feeling I have been experiencing.

Now, add all of this to the student issue I had this week (lying) and the parent issue I had (too long a story - but basically they are not happy with anything), and I've had a . . . week.

I skipped my workout this morning just to sit in the parking lot of the church and pray. No, I didn't go in. I didn't want to risk running into anyone and having to talk. I was afraid that were I to be addressed by anyone, I would either explode in anger or melt into a tearful puddle. I read a few of the Psalms (God bless having a Bible app on my smart phone!) and just laid out all of my frustrations before God. I feel more calm now. I know that change is inevitable and that it is what I make of it. I know that I'm not doing it alone. And I trust that God is using all of these situations to mold me and to make me into what He wants me to be. Sculptors are not gentle with the marble they use for their statues. They chip away forcefully with hard implements. Rocks on the river bed are not created smooth and polished, they get that way from being tossed and tumbled. Right now, I can relate to those rocks.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Note To Self . . .

If you've committed to posting (or trying to post) once a day for an entire month, do NOT start a can't-put-it-down book.

Finished The Hunger Games last night.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stories to Impress a Young Co-Ed OR How The Snake Thaws

Way back in 1985, a man named Robert Burge opened a film studio in Beaumont, Texas. They cranked out such hits as Sno-Line and Vasectomy: A Delicate Matter. They also produced a couple of trade films about the evils of drug use. Then, surprisingly, they were gone.

At this time, my dad was still head of the theatre department at Lamar University. He got notices whenever the studio was casting. It is because of this that my high school boyfriend now has a Bacon number of three. It is also because of this that I got to work at the studio - both on-screen as a teen experimenting with cocaine, and off-screen working in their prop department. It could have been tedious, as I was cataloging and organizing all of the props used in both movies, but the studio manager was a colorful ex-stuntman named Larry who had great stories that would make the time pass quickly. I only remember one of his stories, but I need to share it.

Larry was working as a stuntman on a film involving natives in a jungle. There was a big scene where the natives were to sacrifice an outsider to their snake god. Larry was the sacrifice. They had to tie him to a pole and then wrap a huge (living) python around him for the shot. To protect Larry from becoming boa chow, they iced the reptile down to make it lethargic. They set the scene, got Larry all secure, and then brought out the snake-sicle and wrapped it around him. All went well for the first couple of takes - the drumming, the dancing, Larry looking scared, etc. Then the snake started to warm up.

Apparently when a snake of that size tries to bring down large prey, one of the things that they do is stun it into submission by whacking it with their large, powerful head. Larry said that the snake started waking up and then realized that it was already wrapped around lunch. It sized Larry up and then WHAP! It knocked its snout squarely into Larry's forehead. As the stars dissipated, Larry realized that the snake had started to tighten its coils. Larry opened his mouth to call for help just as WHAP, the snake took another opportunity to beat the snot out of him. So now not only was Larry brain-scrambled, he was also bleeding from a large gash in his forehead. Thankfully, it didn't take long to realize that the make-up man had NOT applied his art to the living sacrifice and the crew rescued Larry and put the snake back on ice.

I'm not sure if they got all the shots they needed, but I don't think that they were able to persuade Larry to be snake-wrapped again.

Footnote: I looked Larry Swieboda up on IMDB. He's only listed as working on the two Beaumont films. Thinking back, he could have been passing down a story told to him, and I heard it as his own. He also could have just been uncredited on whatever film. Or he could have made the whole thing up just to impress a college co-ed. But it's a great story and I choose to believe it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Willing Suspension of Disbelief

My father was a theatre professor for most of my life. If I learned one thing from him, it is that there is only one thing required from an audience - Willing Suspension of Disbelief. (It is so ingrained in me that I MUST capitalize!) That is the one thing - well, other than a paid ticket - that is required of an audience member when he/she walks into a theatre to be entertained. If they do not possess that, then they might as well have thrown their money into a gutter because they ain't gonna have a good time.

I remember one time Hubby and I went to see the Bruce Willis flick Armageddon. It was just a fun, goofy action movie and I really enjoyed it, but at one point something happened (and I don't remember what it was), and Hubby turned to me and said, "Now that was stupid. I don't believe that would happen." I replied, "Oh, you'd buy the fact that we could send a team to a moving asteroid and blow it up, but you wouldn't buy that this guy would do that particular thing?" And that's when it really hit me. There are Rules to Willing Suspension of Disbelief. People still have to be people. Characters still have to be true to themselves. You can't just throw something in and bank on the audience's WSoD to take over. You have to establish Rules and then stick to them religiously. One broken Rule, however minor, can destroy the movie-watching or theatre-going experience.

Within the context of the Rules, however, it can be "anything goes". Take the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong. I thoroughly enjoyed that movie. Some people didn't like it as much as I did, but I had a great time! (Spoiler alert!!!) In my opinion, there was a critical time during the dinosaur stampede when Jackson solidified the Rules . As I watched the cook running for his life between dinosaur feet but never missing a puff on his ever-present cigarette, I remember making a conscious shift in my attitude. Here was a hard Rule to accept - the guy could run from dinosaurs while puffing on a cigarette AND not freaking out that he's running from dinosaurs - and yet I had to accept it in order to continue to enjoy the movie. For me, the choice was simple. From that point on, I just let go and had a great time. The reason that it was easy to do was that the characters were consistent in their actions and reactions (even the cook) and THEY bought the Rules.

It's a delicate balance! Especially in live theatre when things can (gasp) go wrong! Luckily, audiences for live theatre are more forgiving because of the "live" aspect.

And then . . . there are children.

When I was a freshman in college I was in a children's theatre production of The Emperor's New Clothes. Performing for kids is just a complete trip! Talk about WSoD! They will follow you anywhere you lead them, but they won't let you get away with anything outside of the Rules. It is such a rush!

I played one of the two con artists who fool the Emperor into believing that he's wearing clothes. I am 5'2" tall and Zach, the guy cast as the other con artist, was over a foot taller. Great visual! But Zach was incredibly sick. When I first met him, he weighed almost 300 pounds. When I saw him again, six months later at the auditions for the children's show, he was less than 170. He had anorexia. Halfway through our two week run, he didn't show up for a performance. (We found out the next day that he had been hospitalized for his illness.) It got later and later and finally, about 30 minutes before curtain time, we panicked. DJ, the costumer (a very talented actor who had decided to sit this performance out and just design the costumes), stood by and snickered that he was really glad that he wasn't in the cast having to work this mess out. It all hit us at once that DJ was just about the same size as Zach and could fit into his costumes. DJ hit the door running, but he wasn't fast enough. Several of the other cast members were quicker and drug him back in for make-up.

That performance was one of the most magical theatre experiences that I've ever been a part of. The director came on stage and told the kids that we had a special treat for them. One of the actors was going to be carrying a book with them, but if they (the kids) thought hard enough the magic of the theatre would take over and they would not be able to see the book. The kids thought that was great! And you know, after a few minutes I couldn't see the book. It was amazing. DJ and I got into this rhythm where I would basically say my line and then, if he lost his place, I would say his line and pull him to the area of the stage where we were supposed to wind up. It was a whole new take on the show - one con artist leading the other into mayhem instead of them working together - and it worked. DJ made it work. The kids made it work. The other cast members made it work. And it was wonderful.

After the performance we all lined up in the lobby to meet and greet the kids - like we always did. That afternoon instead of scattering to the wind and going our separate ways after the last kid left, we all stayed in the lobby looking at each other with wide eyes and breathless smiles. We did it! We pulled it off! It worked. No one wanted to go. I know that I wanted to hang on to that feeling for as long as I could. We just all hugged each other and finally wandered to the dressing rooms to take off that world and go back to our own.

I often think about DJ and the "invisible" book when I go see live theatre, or even when I go see a movie. The bottom line is - do the actors see the book that they are asking me to make invisible? The answer to that question determines whether the experience is worth the price of admission.

What about you? Is there a particular movie or play that you saw that tested the Rules for you?

(Update on Zach - he recovered and went on to marry and have a beautiful family.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Boot Camp Day One

I started a fitness boot camp today.

I haven't worked out consistently in over a year.

I am seriously out of shape.

I did not throw up.

I will be sore.

I will go back.

But right now I can't move.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Glimpse At My Future?

When I was in college, I lived in a small apartment complex off campus. Across the courtyard from me there lived the Crazy Holiday Lady. She never took down her holiday decorations EVER. Her porch/veranda/outside area was always adorned with the decor of whatever season had either just passed or was approaching. Her Christmas stuff stayed up until she decided to put up Valentine's hearts. The red and pink was replaced at some point by St. Patrick's Day which was quickly traded out for Easter. There was never a time when her apartment was not embellished.

As I put away my Christmas decorations (yes, three weeks after the holiday), I feel that I can relate to her. The Christmas tree and its trimmings make me so happy. I don't want to box them up for another eleven months. I fear that, left to my own devices, I would keep my tree up year 'round.

I have this horrible feeling that some day I'll end up either the Crazy Holiday Lady or the Crazy Cat Lady. Or both.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Exactly How Big Was That Bug?!?!

This afternoon I got an automated call from our credit union. The recording wanted me to verify some charges made to our debit card. After the obligatory identity questions (none of which asked for my card number so I knew that it was legit), the automaton said that it would list several of the latest charges and then ask me to verify them at the end of the list.

Online music store: $8.32 Yep.
Target: $23.78 I got out cheap that day.
Pest control: $108 Got it.
Pest control: $78,000

Wait . . . back up Jack. What was that charge again? Yes. Seventy-eight thousand dollars. Wisely, our credit union had blocked that charge until it was verified.

Of course I couldn't push the number corresponding to "no way on God's green Earth did I have $78,000 worth of pests to treat at my house" fast enough. The automaton then told me that it was going to cancel my card and I needed to call customer service to get a new one.

Immediately I called the number, dreading the ordeal ahead of me. After talking to Joshua, the customer service rep, we both figured that the number hadn't been stolen, but that the pest control company had just made some sort of billing error so I wasn't in any danger of other unauthorized charges. He reinstated my card. No need to get a new one at all. Whew! That saved me a lot of hassle and juggling of chauffeur duties.

However, because the enormous amount and the correct amount were from the same company at about the same time, BOTH charges had been denied. He told me to call the pest control company and let them know their error and the reason I blocked them so that they wouldn't think that I was trying to get out of paying.

Jennifer, the woman I talked to in the billing department was SO apologetic. She was astonished and embarrassed at the error. She said that she had been training a new person and that obviously something went through that shouldn't have. I told her that I completely understood and made sure that she knew that the $108 had been cancelled and needed to go through again. She said that she would do that right away and that she'd knock off $10 for my inconvenience.

The entire episode from the first telephone ring of the automated service to the "good-bye" of the pest control billing department was less than 10 minutes. Both people with whom I spoke were articulate, kind, helpful and efficient. Within 5 minutes I had an e-mailed receipt from the pest control company with the corrected amount charged to my debit card. The credit union rep did indeed reinstate my card - I used it later this evening with no problems.

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is how you serve customers.

Kudos to University Federal Credit Union and to ECO Smart Pest Control.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More Birthday Blessings

The kids made coupons for me for my birthday. I think my favorite is the one that is redeemable for "one uninterrupted episode of Breaking Bad during the day". Emphasis is Princess'.

My kids know me pretty well, don't they?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I'm 44 Years Old!

Since yesterday I have been beginning many thoughts with "I'm 44 years old . . ." and then following up with something that I should/shouldn't know/do/feel, etc. A few examples from this morning:

I'm 44 years old, I shouldn't be surprised that the fast food place has crappy coffee.
I'm 44 years old, I shouldn't have to STILL deal with zits.
I'm 44 years old, I should know what to do with my hair.
I'm 44 years old, I can eat this bag of chips if I choose.
I'm 44 years old, why the hell did I eat an entire bag of chips?

You get the point.

So I'm creating a Twitter hashtag and inviting you to play. What expectations do you have for me (or for yourself ) as I (you) spend more time on this planet?

Come play on Twitter at Cabin77. Or you can leave comments here. I'm looking forward to your input.

Monday, January 09, 2012

A Birthday Post

Today I am 44 years old. When you tell someone that you are 44 years old, there is baggage that goes with that. Add to that the fact that I'm a (somewhat) stay-at-home-mom, a Christian who is active in church and a part-time home schooling mom, then . . . WOW what baggage. I feel claustrophobic here in the corner I've painted myself into!

But I look back on my life and I'm so much more than the labels that I automatically put on myself right now. In my 20s I was a comedienne, a singer, a performer, a writer and, toward the end there, a newlywed. In my 30s I was a singer, a teacher, a mom, an office manager and, for a very brief but defining time, a patient.

Now in my 40s I'm trying to sort out what I used to be, what I am and what I'm becoming. My 30s seemed to be about going with the flow. I gave birth in my 30s. When you have infants, toddlers and then young kids, your time is not yours. Frankly, most of your time is spent making sure that your kid doesn't die. Think about it! YOU have to feed them, keep them warm/cool, change their diapers, then you concentrate on teaching them to feed themselves, to walk without falling, to keep themselves clean, etc. The first 5 years or so (longer if you have boys) is all about survival. Some lucky moms figure out how to have their own lives during that time (some pay others to keep their kids alive), but a lot of us just get caught up in the day to day of THEM. I know that I did.

Do I regret that? Hmmm. Good question. No, not really. I knew that I was going to sacrifice and I was prepared for that. What I wasn't really prepared for was reentry. That's been rough.

I forgot that if you back off from the performing world, they forget about you. If you say "no" a certain number of times, they stop asking. I see listings all the time where my former band mates are gigging all over the place. My first thought is always, "Why isn't it me?" I know why. It's because I chose to stay home. I chose my family. I stepped away and let everyone know that I was stepping away. I don't really regret that, but I do wish that there was a way for me to fit both in - my family and performing. I have random opportunities to perform here and there. I emcee our church's yearly Vacation Bible School and that is a hoot! Sometimes I perform in skits or plays at church. That helps to scratch the itch, but it's not 100% fulfilling.

What I miss is the opportunity to go all out and get lost on stage and surrender to the moment. I miss singing and dancing and getting the crowd involved and riffing and ad-libbing and not having (many) boundaries. I miss the spontaneity and the passion. I love the feeling of being on stage and completely trusting those with whom I'm performing - trusting them to be on the same page and to go where we, collectively as a group have wordlessly decided to go. It's magic. I know that's kind of cliche and trite, but I can't describe it any other way.

I miss all of that. A lot.

But what I miss most of all is knowing that I'm doing something at which I am good. I knew when I walked out on stage that the audience was not going to be disappointed. It's not a diva thing, it's not narcissistic, it's a fact. I was good at what I did. I prepared well, I knew what worked and what didn't, I took it seriously and I was a damn good entertainer. I'm not great at being a housekeeper. I'm not that great at organization (although the kids do get everywhere on time). I can't stay on top of maintenance and bills to save my life. But I can rock the socks off an audience.

I would love to be able to perform again. The cruel, hard fact of the matter is that I'm getting too old. Oh, I'm pretty much as good as ever. Let me work out my voice a bit and I can get back into stage shape. But audiences want young and hot. As much as I want to believe that I am that, I'm not. At least I'm not young any more. ;-) Could I get gigs? Maybe. Would they be gigs that I would want? Maybe not. Since I've been "gone" for over a decade, where would I fit in? Do I still have "it"? And, more importantly, am I willing to work my butt off to get back into the game that may have changed so much that I can't play it any more?

Sigh. It's a lot to think about.

There is a new game. There's a new stage; a new medium. You may laugh, but I invite you to think deeply about it. My new platform is the internet. I use Twitter, Facebook and blogging as my means of creative expression. I am no longer a live performer (at least full-time), but I do engage an audience regularly.

I invite you to read this blog post by Amanda Palmer*. She is an amazing performance artist/songwriter/poet/ukelele goddess. (Just FYI, there is colorful language so be warned.) When I read this post, I was just beginning to see that I had been using Twitter, Facebook and blogging as a substitute for being on stage. I noticed that random people (not strangers, mind you, but people with whom I am not close) would come up to me at church or in the grocery store and tell me that they enjoyed reading about Buddy's latest exploit, or they would ask me how my dad was, or just tell me that they always look forward to reading what I have to say. Amanda's post hit the nail on the head for me - I'm using these forms of social media as a form of performance. I am using them as art.

I started blogging as a way to keep friends and family informed on what was going on in my life and to record the kids' milestones. It's become so much more. I find my thought processes are similar to what they were when I was writing sketch comedy - I am more observant and I actively think about events in terms of how I'm going to relate them in words. I find myself thinking about my "audience" and the voice of my tweets. It's strange, but it's also liberating. I CAN have an audience. I CAN perform. I CAN be creative. My life has changed and so has my means of expression. It's not the same, but can we ever keep things the same?

In keeping with my rule of not making New Year's resolutions, I will set a goal. My goal for this year is to actively explore the internet and social media as an art form. I want to experiment. I want to expand. I want to actively seek an audience.

Are you on board? Will you help me with encouraging words and with gentle criticism? Will you let me know that you are out there and are reading? I have to admit that I'm better on Twitter than I am at blogging. I seem to think better in 140 character chunks. My Twitter is the same as my blog: Cabin77.

I look forward to what this next year brings.

*I found Amanda Palmer through Neil Gaiman's blog - Neil being one of my favorite authors. I adore Ms. Palmer. Her posts often bring tears to my eyes because she is so passionate and her posts are so heartfelt. I love her view of life and of art. And as a bonus, she has one of the most beautiful smiles ever. I don't always agree with her, but I respect the hell out of her.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Rough Day

Buddy had a rough day today. He's only 8 years old and I forget sometimes how hard it is to communicate how you're feeling at that age. He was very frustrated at a number of things today and it culminated in a huge meltdown around 7:45. It breaks my heart to hear all the things that he kept inside because 1) he was too busy playing to want to stop and deal with it or tell me or Hubby what's going on and 2) he just doesn't have the tools to actually deal with it or tell me or Hubby. So he blows up and then melts down.

Sometimes I forget how hard it is to be eight years old.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Being a Good Neighbor?

This morning a dear friend called me with a situation that is not mine to disclose. However, during the course of the conversation, I was reminded of an incident that happened in my own backyard about five years ago.

I was in the kitchen making my grocery list when I looked up. Princess and Buddy were in the back yard playing. Buddy faced the fence in "the stance" - hands at crotch-level, head bowed. That wouldn't have alarmed me in and of itself, but Princess was taking a keen interest in whatever Buddy was doing. And she seemed to be giving directions. This did not bode well.

I opened the back door and they both turned around. That's when I saw the knothole.

You know, I'm glad that I'm not really a "freak out" kind of person. You really shouldn't be a freaker-outer if you are going to be a parent. There are just too many situations that will trigger the freak out button. This was one of them. So let's add the freak out factors:

1) My son was putting his penis into a hole.
2) The hole is in a fence.
3) The hole opens up to our neighbor's back yard.
4) My daughter was not only encouraging this behavior, but coaching him.

Now, go back through those factors again and put on the non-freak out filter.

1) My son was putting his penis into a hole. He was three at the time. He has an appendage that can fit into stuff. Of course he's going to experiment. (At that point I just prayed that he would get all the experimentation out BEFORE it really matters exactly WHERE he puts that thing.)
2) The hole is in a fence. Okay, this one was a bit freak worthy. All I could think of were splinters - and who would have to extract them.
3) The hole opens up to our neighbor's back yard. No one was home during the day there. And, let's face it, Buddy was three. It's not like there was anything of significant size to see.
4) My daughter encouraged and coached. Okay, so she should have known better. We talked about that later.

So I had the (calm) talk about what is appropriate and what isn't, what is private and who gets to see what, etc, etc. They giggled a lot at first, but after I mentioned the splinters Buddy took it a bit more seriously.

I didn't freak out. But what I'm most proud of is that I didn't collapse in laughter until I got inside and out of their sight.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Love Born in 1975

On a hot summer day in Lubbock, Texas I fell in love. I didn't realize it at the time - who does, really? But I knew I felt different that afternoon. I was only seven years old, but I would never be the same. It was the afternoon that my mom took me to see Jaws.

My family is a theatrical family. My dad worked as a theatre director and my mom was also a director as well as a writer. Dad worked for community theatre organizations and taught in college and university theatre departments. I grew up backstage as a "theatre brat". I knew the pre-production hours that Dad put in, I knew the rehearsal process like the back of my hand and I knew how hectic and electric performance weekends were. I don't remember a time that I wasn't aware of live theatre and how it works.

I think that knowledge helped me in my movie viewing. I don't ever remember getting movies and reality confused. I always knew that the stories that I saw on screen were just that - stories on screen that had been filmed and played back. There were elaborate costumes and sets sometimes (I remember seeing Alice's Adventure in Wonderland and loving the animal costumes), but I knew that they were sets and costumes. I also knew that the actors on screen couldn't hear the reactions of the audience members in the theatre - there was a disconnect there. I knew that the storytelling was the same, but the medium was different.

And then there was Jaws.

I remember being totally swept up in the story and being scared in all the right places. I thought Quint was gruff and Hooper was cute. And the shark, of course, was terrifying. So how did I fall in love? The last scene.

Watch it again. But first, remember what came before. Hooper had gone into the cage and the shark attacked the cage. Then the shark went crazy on the boat. Quint slid down the sinking boat into the jaws of the shark and was eaten and now . . . the shark's coming after Brody. Brody manages to stuff an air tank into its mouth on one pass and now it's heading his way again - chunks of Quint's flesh hanging from its teeth. It's coming. It's coming for Brody. But Brody won't give up without a fight.

(I can't embed, but I can link. Here's the scene.)

When the bullet pierced the tank and the shark blew up, the packed house in which I sat spontaneously cheered - just like Brody. I was so startled that I came out of the world of the movie. Movie audiences didn't cheer! Why would they? The actors couldn't hear them - there was no relationship between the actor and the audience because it wasn't live. How could a movie audience cheer for something that wasn't live? I was puzzled, but I was also captivated.

They could cheer and (at the closing credits) applaud because the story was told so well. There was a definitive three act structure. The story built, the characters were likeable and believable, so why SHOULDN'T an audience show their appreciation - even if the players were projected and not even present in the theatre? That experience showed me that a film could induce the same emotions and the same reactions as a live performance. It's rare, but it's possible.

So I fell in love. I fell in love with Spielberg and his storytelling. I fell in love with the medium of film. I look back on that afternoon and can, without a doubt, say that that moment shaped the life that I have now.

Can you name a film, a play or a book that sparked a love of storytelling in you?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

My First Non-Post

I had a lot to do today and actually got through most of it! I'm pretty proud of myself. However, all of that "doing" kind of sapped my creative juices and I just don't feel much like posting a long, thoughtful post. I did commit to posting every day in January, so this is my first non-post: a rambling post just to put something on the blog.

Buddy goes back to school tomorrow so I'm back to the school wake-up schedule. I've enjoyed sleeping in SO much that now I'm jazzed for summer to get here! My favorite part about sleeping in is having the kids come and get in bed with me when they wake up. (A little secret - most of the time I wake before they do and I just wait for them to come cuddle with me.)

Tonight I'm going to finally finish the third season of Breaking Bad. I'm very much looking forward to that. This series is a ride, let me tell you! Just when it starts to slow down a little, something shoots them back out into the fast lane.

And with that, I'm signing off and turning on Netflix. I posted. It wasn't a great post, but I wrote something!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Goals for 2012 - Number Two

Heh, heh. I said Number Two.

A couple of years ago I composed a long and soul-searching blog post about who I was. I remember very clearly how pleased I was with the post and then how devastated I was when I lost it forever to the computer from hell.

Since then, I've started writing similar posts but wound up leaving them in frustration. I just have never gotten the same spark I had for that one post. Could it be that I purged what I needed to purge and God decided that I was the only one who needed to read it? Yes. That could be it. But now, five plus years after the failed posting, I think I need to revisit the subject. My kids are older and more independent so I don't have to spend so much energy and focus on them. And so . . . what now?

My second goal for this year is to explore this particular season in my life and decide what I can let go of and what I need to embrace. Frankly, I've spent a lot of motherhood fighting myself and my preconceived notions of what motherhood should be. As I get farther and farther in to this journey, I realize that motherhood is what I make of it. And, at the same time, it can't be an excuse to slack off on being me. It's very easy to write things off by saying, "I could never do that because I have to do all of my mom stuff." Being a mom is a great excuse to stagnate. And then what happens when the kids are out of the house? Find another excuse? Don't want to go down that road.

So there's another goal for 2012 - to find out who "me" is this year. No, I don't mean find out who I am definitively. I'm not sure that anyone can every pinpoint that. I just mean to find out who I am and what I'm supposed to be/work on this particular season of my life.

What about you? Who do you see as "you" right now in your life?

Monday, January 02, 2012

Jolly Biscuit Ring Saga 2011/2012

This is my first holiday season to be gluten free. I wasn't that worried, to be honest. My sister-in-law made a small pan of her macaroni and cheese with GF noodles, I made GF green bean casserole, I wasn't tempted to fill up on rolls or biscuits, and (most) pie filling is GF so I can just avoid the crust. And since I'm not celiac, I can cheat with a taste here or there. (Happily, I didn't over do the tasting so I didn't get any tummy troubles.) The only fly in the ointment was to be our family favorite Jolly Biscuit Ring.

My mom found the recipe for Jolly Biscuit Ring many, many moons ago from either the side of the Bisquick box or a recipe book sponsored by Bisquick. Either way, it was a Bisquick recipe. It's been the staple holiday breakfast food in my life from an early age. I can't watch a holiday parade without a plate of Jolly Biscuit Ring in front of me. Being GF hasn't been the burden that I envisioned it to be when I started, but I still hadn't faced a Christmas morning without the gooey goodness of JBR.

Christmas morning I started the Bisquick batch for the family. Yes, I'm a good wife/mom/daughter! Earlier in the year I had tried a GF biscuit mix to make biscuits and to make pancakes and . . . well . . . I would rather never have pancakes again. Ick. I was not about to sully the Jolly Biscuit Ring with that mix. However, I had a box of Hodgson Mill GF Pancake and Waffle Mix that I hadn't opened it yet so I thought I'd at least try a small batch of JBR with that. I thought that maybe a pancake mix would have a better flavor and consistency than a regular biscuit mix. Oh, mama.

Because the mix has flax seed in it and, most likely, because the mix is gluten-free, the consistency is definitely different. It's more crumbly and less flaky. But, I ask you, is that bad in a coffee cake? No, no it isn't. And I am overjoyed to say that I will never have to have a holiday without a Jolly Biscuit Ring.

Gluten Free Jolly Biscuit Ring

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
12 maraschino cherries
1/4 chopped pecans

2 cups Hodgson Mill GF Pancake and Waffle Mix with Flaxseed
3/4 cup milk

5 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar mixed with
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Heat oven to 400℉. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in bundt pan in oven about 5 minutes. Take the pan out and sprinkle brown sugar over the melted butter. Follow with cherries and nuts. (I also pour a little bit of cherry juice in - a tablespoon or so.)

Combine pancake mix and milk just until moistened. (You might use a little more or a little less milk than the 3/4 cup - it depends on what consistency you want.) Shape dough into small balls that you drop into the second batch of melted butter then roll in the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Drop the dough balls into the pan evenly around. Drizzle any leftover butter and cinnamon/sugar over dough. Bake 20-25 minutes. Invert immediately onto serving plate and serve warm.

Serves one. Or more if you get to the kitchen in time.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Goodbye and Hello

It is that time of year again - the calendar ends/begins its twelve month cycle and as we throw out the old planner pages, we can't help but reflect on the used up days of 2011. Judging from the majority of tweets, blogs and status updates that I've read (or just skimmed), 2011 has been a rough year for a lot of people. They seem to be happy to be rid of it. I think I can sum up my feelings about my own experiences in 2011 with one word: meh.

My 2011 wasn't horrible, but it wasn't high on the list of great years either. It was just . . . there. I guess on paper it looks kind of rough, but . . . not really. Am I just balking at the trend to dissect and analyze the last year? Am I bored? Am I desensitized? I might have to take a closer look. (No matter what it looks like, I will NOT be going month by month.)

The first major event of 2011 for me was my dad's latest surgery. He had yet another procedure done on his back. I have no idea what it was supposed to do, but I know that the anesthesia messed him up royally. Mom actually took me up on my offer to come up and help her with him. I got there just hours before they moved him to a rehab facility and hours before he got a nasty little fever. Bottom line is that he is okay and the surgery was a success. But it was nasty there for a few days.

I got back home and a week or so later found out that I have the beginnings of osteoarthritis in a couple of my joints. Dad was diagnosed with the same thing around my age and that has been the cause of most of his surgeries. Yippee. That kind of threw me into a tailspin since I had just come home from a weekend dealing with what could conceivably be my future.

I took matters into my own hands and consulted with a wonderful naturpath/nutritionist. She told me that the biggest thing she could recommend would be to give up gluten. I figured, what have I got to lose? I'll try it for a couple of months. I lost the arthritis pain. I lost the early morning grogginess. I gained the ability to wear cute shoes again. Score one BIG one for being gluten-free. Any time I start the pity party and think of how much I miss garlic bread, I just remember 1) how it feels to walk with pain and 2) that gluten now causes me stomach cramps and I'm able to let it go. Yay gluten-free!

Last spring I decided that it would be "fun" for my classes to write and produce an original musical in class. It was, if your definition of "fun" is "intense stress brought on by writer's block, looming deadlines, weekly hopeful looks from 5th and 6th graders and eye rolls from 7th and 8th graders". I'm pretty proud of the scripts, in a first draft kind of way. One day I'll go back and re-write them. I like the plots and the characters and I think that they could be really good. Again, the negative and the positive balance out to . . . meh.

This year I neither lost weight nor gained weight. I wear the exact same size right now that I have all year. I must confess that my current weight is about 7-10 pounds over what I would like it to be. But I'm encouraged that I'm not steadily going up. I have not worked out all year. This bit of information tells me that if I do start working out, I might actually lose the 7-10 pounds. An interesting theory that I'd love to test. I will not, however, commit to a workout schedule. Every time I've done that this last year, I've either gotten sick or hurt. So . . . I think I'll sneak up on a work out when I'm least expecting it. (I have no idea what that means. I'm trying to be sneaky!)

Summer was hot. And dry. And freaking hot. The worst part of it was not the heat nor the dryness - it was the constant threat of fire. In April, we had a fire almost directly across the highway from our house. The helicopters carrying water flew directly over our house. Our neighbors spent the day with us at my brother's house, just in case. We swam at his pool and pretended that we weren't scared that the wind was going to change course. It didn't and we slept in our own beds that night. A few months later, some dear friends of ours were not so lucky. The Labor Day Bastrop fires claimed their house along with over 1600 other homes.

Hubby and I were able to get away for a weekend in late July and hang out with some friends while being kid-free. We enjoyed some MUCH needed down time. In keeping with the down balancing the up, the second day of our vacation I developed shingles. Yep, dream come true. BUT, I got treatment within the all-important 72 hour period and the duration of the outbreak was less than two weeks. I read on the internet where symptoms can remain for up to 6 weeks on average. Mine were completely gone in two. Gone. That may be my biggest praise for 2011 because at the one week mark I was on the phone to the doctor's office on a Sunday begging for better pain meds. (By the time they got back to me the next day, I didn't need them.)

The fall has been downright pleasant! I love the one Musical Theatre class that I'm teaching (5th and 6th grade - all girls!), and I love that I'm helping to teach a Film Making class. I spend more time up at school and have enjoyed getting to know my colleagues more. The students that I have in my classes are bright and engaged, creative and fun. I don't dread my classes like I did last year. (That could be in part because of the fact that I am NOT writing our production.) The same theme again - I had a really rough spring 2011 at school, and now fall of 2011 has balanced out the negative. Even keel.

So you can see that I'm not as vehement about leaving 2011 behind as others. It was pretty okay. I have high hopes for 2012, but I'm not putting all of my eggs in one basket. I know that if 2012 just plain stinks, it'll be gone soon enough. And if it rocks beyond belief, it'll still be gone soon enough. Life goes on and on. Always. I just want to make sure that I'm experiencing the good and the bad and appreciating both.

I'll close with a fantastic quote: Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. (Ferris Bueller) Here's to looking around a lot in 2012.