Friday, September 23, 2016

Five on Friday: The Meta Theatre Company

I woke up way too early this morning--but this time not because my six-year-old came in to tell me she was hungry at five-something o'clock. This time it was with very good reason: to travel into New York City to participate in and perform at an international conference called Performing the World. I am not alone, I'm with my social justice theatre troupe, The Meta Theatre Company.

You may have heard me mention Meta on Facebook or Twitter, usually when I'm saying something about how lucky I am to have found them. What is it that makes Meta so wonderful? So many things . . . for example:

1. The fact that it exists at all. What are the odds that there would be something that existed that combined my passions of writing, performing and social justice?

2. The fact that it exists here, where I live. I'm not just saying that because this is where I live and so that's convenient. I mean the county paper is called the "Democrat" and that's more than a bit ironic. It's not a very . . . progressive area overall.

3. That fact that it exists here, where there is a Correctional Facility for Women, and that we have been able to get into that prison to perform. Even better is that we have been able to run a weekly writing group with them and have written a full-length show along with a group of incarcerated women. It's not always easy to get permission to do these things, and somehow we've gotten it.

4.  This group has changed a bunch over the past four years: we've had some long term members who ended up needing to take a break, we've had some short term members for specific shows or projects. We also have a core group that's been in it, think or thin. You know what we haven't had? Much drama. (Well, besides on the stage, of course . . . ). And it's wonderful.

5. That time a woman watched one of our shows and came up to me to tell me that she thought I was a great actress. That was nice, but what was even better was when she continued to tell me that I had helped open up and change her mind. She used to judge immigrants and was rude to them when their English wasn't coming easily. She told me that she regretted her past behavior.

Theatre can change minds and change lives. And this theatre troupe has absolutely changed mine. 

Thank you, Meta.


Ready for our closeups. Read about us here

Friday, September 16, 2016

Five on Fridays: Signs, Signs, Literal and Figurative

Not much going on here . . . ha, ha, ha, there's a TON going on. Catching up on big chores, appointments, Back to School nights, sports, clubs, fundraisers, donation drives, a new part-time job for me . . . I guess meant not much going on her, on ye old blog. But everyone always loves the lists that are filled with pictures so I can justify one by saying it's really just what my public demands.

A list of signs . . . some ridiculous, some perhaps ominous? Here they are:

1. Not so much the sign of dinner specials in the background, but is the Virgin Mary's neck growth some sort of . . . sign? (Like 'it's time for a new Mary' perhaps?)

2.We might have to call them that from now on. Muggins is just so fun to say.

3.The boys' face. The name of the game. The slogan. Comedy gold here, people.

4. Two dead snakes in my path this week on two different days in two different locations. What does it mean?

5. Okay, fine, this wasn't really a sign. But they probably have had a sign up somewhere at some time as an advertisement. We're big fans of trying out unusual soft drinks. This was at a Cuban restaurant and not only had the best graphics but was also the crowd favorite of the three that we sampled that night.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Five on Friday: Back to School--A Study in Contrasts

As I reflect on my one full week of kids being at school (well. There were two half days and one holiday day off, so not exactly a normal full week but we're getting there . . .) I realize that, for me, it has been a study in contrasts. 

1. Need to Slow Down/Speed Up: Oh, there are so many things I need to do! Deep clean and organize, harvest and save what I can from the garden, make phone calls and appointments. My inclination is to do them ALL immediately and I've had to remind myself that they'll be in school for months now so I can pace myself. Meanwhile, I've gotten back to my daily runs and was looking back on some of my past workouts (I have an app for that) and saw how much faster and further I was going back in June. D'oh! You need to speed up, you slow old lady!

2.  I Don't Miss Them/I Miss Them: I love them dearly but I have a lot I need to do and the bickering was reaching an all time high. They love school, I love the break. I don't miss them. But I did notice that when I got home from the supermarket yesterday and honked my horn, nobody came out to help me unload the groceries . . .

3.  Quieter/Louder: Obviously it's so quiet here all day but the minute they get home their chaos seems about a thousand times louder. I understand now why my husband, who spends a lot more time away from them than I do, frequently finds their volume so unbearable.

4.  So Much Time/Not Enough Time: Each morning after I get them on the bus, the day is stretched out ahead of me with endless possibility. I do know I can't do it ALL in one day (#1) so I prioritize my to-do list and then get cracking. And blink! The bus is back, just like that.

5. Writing/Not Writing: With more quiet time (#3) and more time to run (#1) and when I run I do a lot of thinking, I'm breaking out of my no-new-writing summer slump. But with trying to catch up on so much that needs to be done (#1) and the day going by so quickly (#4), it's staying in my head. So that's not actually writing, now is it?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Five on Friday: Another High School Freshman

I realized that last year I dedicated a Five on Friday list to my daughter as she began her High School career and that I did not have one this year for my son. Lest he ever feel like that overlooked second child (Ha! How do you think number five feels?), I should probably write out some thoughts and wishes for him, too.

1. So the funny thing about you, G, (well, one of them), is that you were only the baby of the family for four years before becoming a big brother three times over. But those four years made some sort of impression on my psyche as a mother. Every time your sister would reach a milestone I'd feel happy and excited about what's ahead--but when you'd reach the same milestone a year later, I'd get a little verklempt. I thought maybe I was getting over that now but as you pedaled away on your bike that first morning of High School, I'll admit I got a little choked up. 

2. You've always been such an interesting mixture of wanting to march to the beat of your own drum but overly worried about other people not liking your music. It makes me a little worried about you entering High School--I see you as the Anthony Michael Hall character, kind of annoying, sort of sweet and lovable, easy to be bullied. I'm seeing your confidence begin to develop and I know you're super smart. I just hope your brain and sarcasm help get you out of more trouble than in it.

3. You admitted you're considering joining Drama Club!! That burst of joy and enthusiasm I displayed was subdued, believe it or not. Oh please oh please! Theatre has always meant so much to me and I do think you'd find some good friends and really enjoy it. High School is time for broadening your horizons and if it's not with this, I hope you try other things. (But I really want it to be this. FYI. Again.)
4. At first I was bummed and pretty sad for you when you came home from your Freshman Orientation day completely underwhelmed. But then I remembered how, when you were in preschool, every single day I'd excitedly ask you, "How was school today?" And every damn day you'd sigh and respond, "Want to know what bad happened?" But overall you did love preschool. You and I just have different . . . outlooks on life. I know this big new school is going to take some getting used to but there will be so many great opportunities for you to enjoy and so many things to learn that you're actually interested in. Just hang on, you'll get there.

5. Speaking of preschool, I'd never say that it seems like just yesterday you were there. It actually has felt like a long time and it's amazing to see how you've changed and grown. Things are really happening now--you've eked past your sister height-wise and your voice is changing. I remember last year one of B's observations on High School is that so many of the senior boys were "LIKE MEN!" You're going to be taller than me, too, soon . . . and like a man. While I'd never say your childhood was over in a flash, it's still hard for me to believe you're getting so grown. I can't wait to see the ways you continue to grow and change in these next four years.

And they're off!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Five on Friday: Best Quotes from Family Vacation

I'm going to milk one more Five on Friday list out of our recent family road trip (Shared two vacation-related lists already) . . . but apparently when you put our family of seven together in close quarters for a week, hilarity ensues.

It was challenging to narrow it down to five, maybe I'll have to share a FOURTH vacation-related list next week. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Daddy O: "I would tell you to Google 'horse penises' but . . . don't do that."

2. 14-year-old G: "We're creating a new society in the van. Our currency is bottle caps and paperclips."

3.  6-year-old A: "Kids' brains is better than grown up brains. Siri told me."

4. 8-year-old Z: "Dad. If you give me a dollar, I won't bug you . . for like . . TWO DAYS." (pause) "About candy."

5. 15-year-old B: "I thought that guy was wearing go go boots but he just had socks on. Life is less interesting than I want it to be."

Friday, August 19, 2016

Five on Friday: Kid Car Entertainment Hits & Misses

We're big on the road trip (see also: recent purchase of gigantic vehicle). Each year I try to figure out what will entertain my kids on long stretches of road. Of course they just want to play on electronics and they do that, too, but not for hours at a time.

We've got some rules. We try to avoid giving them anything to play with or read for the first hour of any ride. I mean, we drive an hour to get places pretty regularly without any toys, so they can do absolutely do it.

I also keep some toys hidden and wait until later in the trip to break them out. Here are this year's hits and misses for keeping them happy in the car, luckily they were mostly hits:

1. Smarty pants flashcards. Yeah, yeah, I know, boring. But sometimes they like this sort of stuff! Not this time. MISS.

2. Pipe cleaners. I saved these until one of the last days of the trip. They were adequately bored enough to all try, even my 8-year-old who initially gave them a huge eyeroll. Half an hour later he was decked out in all sorts of pipe cleaner crowns and jewelry, announcing that he wants pipe cleaners for Christmas. HIT!

3. Activity books, Mad libs, notebooks and pens: most of the kids have outgrown this sort of stuff. Mad Libs were too hard in our new giant van we couldn't hear each other (seriously. Holy crap.) Plain paper was good for some kids but not all and was particularly good for my 10-year-old who began writing down all the different states he saw represented on license plates. HIT and MISS!

4.Water weenies. Not exactly a great car toy (or even a great toy, really, I mean, what are you supposed to do with them?) but they were super cheap so I picked them up before the trip. I saved these until one of the last days, too, and the novelty was enough to keep them entertained for a bit. Not as long as I'd have liked, but the weenie jokes alone made them worth it, because we're immature like that. HIT!

5. Okay I'm sort of cheating here, this wasn't for the car but worked out so well I have to share. I picked these up because they were super cheap and thought the kids would have fun with them. These were great to travel with because when you're small and in a strange room, a little hand held night light is wonderful. Also one of the rooms they stayed in was pretty hot, so a handheld fan was helpful. Best of all though? My younger kids held these and watched the lighted up fan blades spin around until they mesmerized themselves right to sleep. HIT!!!

Five on Friday: Funiculi, Funicula!

I suggest cuing up this opera song for reading this post. Like me, you've probably heard this one before, it's one of those songs that's been used in commercials for Italian food and in cartoons.  And maybe like me, you'll not have realized that they are singing about FUNICULARS, which are a growing obsession of mine.

What is a funicular? Also known by a more boring name (an inclined plane) it's sort of a sideways elevator that goes up and down a steep hill. I encountered my first on a trip to Puerto Rico a decade ago. We were staying at a hotel that was on a hill top while the beach was at the bottom.  We were told to take the funicular down and had no idea what that meant. We saw it for ourselves and began calling it a Wonka-vator.

I hadn't been on another one until last year in Quebec, but on this year's road trip we got to go on THREE! It's become sort of a challenge now, to go on as many as I can.

So for today's late Five on Friday list, I present to you each of the five funiculars I've been on.

1. The Wonka-vator. Nothing particularly charming about it but as my first, it will always be special.

2. Quebec. Charming because it's in French and all.

3. Pittsburgh, on the way up: all the charm of an antique railroad car (because it sort of is. Just . . . sideways.) Look at that lantern hanging from the ceiling! Squeal!

4. Pittsburgh, on the way down: this car was divided into three sections. I didn't get a good picture to explain what I mean, so here's a random picture from the Internet:

5. Lastly, one I was really excited about: a VEHICULAR one in Johnstown, PA. Naturally I prefer the word "funicular" in all cases, but when it's a vehicular one, it really should be called a funicular, right? A vehicular funicular? Oh well. Our brand new mega-van, Overkill Jones, seemed like it would fit but they didn't want to take the chance on its weight. We understood and just stood for the ride up and down. They called the little room on the right the "chicken room" for anyone not brave enough to stand by the gate and watch. My oldest son started out there but then even he realized it wasn't that scary and joined the rest of us by the gate.

We're already scheming for next year's road trip in Overkill Jones and hitting another funicular. I'll be singing opera until then . . .

Friday, August 5, 2016

Five On Friday: Bad Moms

It's not just a movie title anymore. It's a legit feeling that some people (ahem) are struggling with at this point in the summer.

I don't like it and am trying hard to turn it around. It's one child in particular, with whom 75% of interactions with throughout the day (and also when child wakes me overnight) involve intense negotiations. It is mentally and physically exhausting. So am I really a bad Mom? I hope not. I'm trying not to be. Today's Five on Friday list is a bit of a double feature . . . five thoughts I've had and my responses to try to turn it around.

1. I just don't like this kid. Turned around with: I need to spend more time and try to reconnect with this kid. More bedtime reading and snuggles. More playing.

2. I am starting to feel like I hate summer and I hate hating summer. Turned around with: So enjoy it. Stop trying to maintain a clean house and getting angry at kids messing it up. Go take a hike.

3. GAH! I'm such a jerk that just says "No" to all of them all of the time! Turned around with: Say yes. Say yes when you don't feel like it. Say yes because it's summer and you can. Save the nos for the non-negotiables.

4. All they do is fight! Turned around with: remember all those great plans for getting them to entertain themselves when you can't do it? Like setting out the play dough or flubber and cookie cutters? Or water and sponges on the hot deck? Or just taking out the science experiment book and leaving on the table? Do that.

5. Now I'm that Mom that can't wait for school to start again. Turned around with . . . well. So be it.