Aug 28, 2014

A bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils

Welcome back.
I must say that it was a fantastic summer with many great adventures, and memories were made.
Things slow down at the Theatre for the staff that isn't involved in all of the creative things, so the days were not harried, just the right kind of busy, for work.

We cruised to the Bahamas and spent a week beachfront at the Isle of Palms.  Vacations are wonderful.

I dealt with grief over the death of my cousin. That still pains me. I said my final goodbye to the person that gave birth to me, and that kind of  finality usually only comes with death, but not in our case.  It was a difficult final chapter of a very long, complicated story.
I even para-sailed in some weak attempt to set myself free of the things that were eating away at me, to no avail.  You can't get over grief, for the loss of the living or the dead, without walking through it and feeling it.
I did feel a little more brave after the flight, and I think it has helped me continue in the journey toward making some kind of peace with my sadness.  Some things are just plain sad.
I didn't spend a lot of time on social media, and I didn't speak to very many people on the phone, outside of my immediate circle.
I decided to begin my journey anew, with the intention of becoming lighter as I move forward toward other changes that are imminent.

A New Beginning...
This is the time of year I love most.  It is my New Year. I have decided to take advantage of the promise of a new season.
The beginning of the school year is filled with all the promise of a fresh start for my kids. In the movie "You've Got Mail", Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly write emails to each other anonymously and one of those emails refers to Autumn in New York and Joe's urge to gift Kathleen a "bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils" if only they knew each other.  I love the image that phrase invokes. I can smell the pencils, and I can feel the air of a New York Fall each time I watch the movie.
Regan is a Senior, Lucas is a Junior and Rosey is in fifth grade.
We are on the cusp of some major changes for our family as Regan takes flight.
It's time to look at colleges, travel to auditions, and soak up every moment we have left before things change for good.
That's what I'll be writing about for now.  REAL LIFE.
Working through things "out loud" might help me make sense of the every day chaos and bliss that rule my world.
There is a lot going on here and it is all perfectly ordinarily extraordinary.
I've actually had requests for Blog Posts, so I'm going to attempt to oblige.
I was inspired today by a writer friend of mine that writes beautifully. She has a son the same age as Rosey. I love her blog, because she is honest and writes from her heart.
We have a lot in common, yet our lives couldn't be any less alike.

Aren't we supposed to find people that we can relate to, who inspire us to be better?   Shouldn't we all have the pleasure of knowing that someone hundreds of  miles away who happens to come from the same home town sees things through a similar lens as we do. Doesn't that make us feel less alone? Don't we love to have things in common with others.  Don't we need a tribe?  Some friendships don't last.  Some families don't really know how to be families. But we can find ways to connect with people on a level that gives us hope that we're not alone, even when we feel most like we are.
I have dreamed a dream of starting a new life, a new chapter, a second act.  I was prompted to remember by another writer friend that while I'm thinking of a new life, I'm living this life and I'm missing out on somethings  by not living in this moment.
I'll strive to live in the moment. I'll strive to share the story of these moments with the people who stop by this blog, and I'll hope that someone will read these words and be inspired to start over, to share something they've been longing to share, or just to take a moment and know that there is someone who struggles every day with the ideas that swirl around and that someone is trying to make those ideas take shape, if only so someone out there feels less alone on their journey.

...thank you for stopping by.


Jun 6, 2014

Vacation


Looking forward to the beach.
Looking forward to the days with no schedules.
Looking forward to turning off the phone.
Sun. Reading. Sand. Food. Games. Drinks. Summer Music. Ocean Views. Charleston.
All of those things with the faces that I love most, around me, all day and night.

Summer begins today.

Jun 1, 2014

The moment you realize what "love is" ...

I was doing quite well with my Facebook Fast, until Friday.
I wanted to post on Thursday when I saw the Hillcrest High School Chorus Spring Concert, because I was so impressed by the singers and the level of devotion they showed for the show, and each other.
Their teacher, Bruce McIntyre was a true mentor this year, and that was obvious by the affection between he and his students.
I stopped myself from logging in to Facebook, and worked through the temptation.

Then Friday came.  That same Chorus was asked to sing with the 1980's Super Rock Band Foreigner at their Sounds of Summer Tour with Styx & Don Felder.
Lucas had plans, so David stayed home with Rosey, and I had a very good seat for the Concert.
The Chorus had to report at 4:30 and sell CD's to benefit the Children's Hospital and the Grammy Foundation.  There they were in their Red Chorus T-Shirts that signify their "part".  There was my "Soprano" in her element with a group of friends that she adores.
Twenty five chosen singers along with their Fearless Leader waiting for their moment to shine when they would take the stage for the final song of the night.

I was alone at the concert, save for a couple of friends that I ran into that kept me company between sets, and Regan and her friends stopped in at my section when they were selling their CD's too.
Mostly, Friday was a chance for me to observe more of what I saw on Thursday, at the Concert at Hillcrest.
This is a special moment in time for a special group of kids.

Theatre is a funny game.  People are thrust together in an intense environment, for a short time.
They create something together, and then they go their separate ways.  It's inevitable. Community Theatre breeds drama by it's nature, and yet as a "player" you are isolated in that environment for the length of time that you're "playing".  Regan has been "playing" since she was 6 years old, either backstage, or finally, onstage about 4 years ago.  The Theatre was the source of all of her closest "friendships", but it was also the source of many questions about loyalty and self confidence.   
Recently, Regan has branched out.  Chorus was a big step for her, after an awful experience during her Freshman year.  She has recently auditioned for a Theatre in another town, where no one with the name, Pelicano, is involved, and she got the part.  A big part.  She has expanded her world to include many kids that appreciate the qualities that shine through, and that don't feel competitive with her for reasons that, though imagined, grow like a virus in a laboratory, in the micro environment  of Community Theatre.
I don't know how the other Theatre experience will turn out.  I know she'll do well on stage, and I know that she's having a ball, but I'm not certain that "friends" will be the result of the endeavor.

I feel very differently about the Chorus experience.  I believe that she has found some kids that appreciate all of the things that are "Regan".  As a matter of fact, it was a Chorus friend that suggested she audition at the Theatre in another town.  He wanted her to try because he knew their wasn't anyone who had auditioned that had a voice like hers.  That doesn't mean she has the best voice, it means that it's unique.
She is actually blown away by the vocals of the ladies with which she is sharing the role.  She's not in a competition, she's in a show.

The Chorus kids lit up when she arrived at the Concert on Thursday.  They were truly happy to see her.  A scheduling conflict had caused her to be excused from the performance, and she was ultimately able to split her time and make it to the show for the last few songs.  She was there in time to hear the solo of the young man that took her to Prom this year, and that was one of the reasons she insisted I attend, even when she wasn't sure she'd make it.  This guy was unbelievable.  Made me want to leap to my feet, before he was through.  A voice like I haven't heard on a kid his age before, simply beautiful.
His song was a Senior Solo, and there were more of those kids, with an opportunity to share their talents with their families and friends before they leave for their life adventures.  There were group numbers that had been rehearsed and worked out for weeks, and I've heard about them every afternoon when Regan jumps in the car.  I "knew" the kids without having met many of them so their personalities shone through in song.
Watching this little group of kids sing, and laugh, and take their bows, and hug their teacher, and each other, and then go to dinner and hug each other when they arrived at the restaurant that was right across the street from the school, so they were apart for 7 minutes, and then hug again after they were filled up with burgers and fries, in the parking lot, as they went their separate ways for 16 hours until they were all to meet again, reminded me that love and friendship can't be sustained in environments that breed insecurity and competition.  Sometimes the environments of insecurity and competition are imaginary, they're not exclusive to community theatre.  They rear their ugly heads all the time, in our lives as teenagers, and adults, in work and other areas.

Friendships need that quality of "There you are! I've missed you!" It doesn't matter how long we've been apart, I've thought of you and I have wished you were near me.

If it's every morning at your locker, or every time you arrive at your rehearsal for a show, if you're really friends, that feeling comes through. "There you are!"  "I've missed you!"  It's simple, and it's impossible.  It requires seeing another person through eyes of appreciation for all that they are without comparing them to anything that we are...imagine that.
When we look at others for all that they are, without comparison, competition and insecurity can not survive.

This leads me to a moment in time... the class of 2014 and their friends from the underclass at Hillcrest High School, all culminated on stage Friday night when they rushed out out to sing "I Want To Know What Love Is" with Foreigner in front of thousands of people. Mr. McIntyre joined them and they swayed with their hands in the air and sang at the top of their lungs.  They looked at each other ("There you are!" became "Here we are!"), while they sang and shared a moment that will last forever.  The lights were as bright as their futures.  They were sweaty and no one's hair or make-up looked at all as they had intended it to look as they were getting ready, 6 hours earlier, before the RAIN...
Regan told me that she learned something about herself Friday night.  I won't share what she learned, but the idea that she took that moment and applied it to what she now knows for sure, made me very proud of her accomplishments this year, over and above the things she achieved as a singer.  Regan.  She lights up a lot of lives, especially mine.

...that's why I broke my Facebook Fast.

May 26, 2014

Tribute

I've always loved handsome men.
I mention that because I lost one of "my" handsome men on Friday.
Even as a very little girl, I was very attracted to physical beauty. My cousin Peter P. Montera Jr. was a beautiful specimen.  He was about 11 years older than me, so I started to understand that he was part of the genetic cream of our family crop when I was about 5 or 6 years old.

My cousins teased me a lot.  They were a team.  There were five Montera kids and one of me at the time.
From the time I was a baby, they called me "Pookie" baby.  There are different explanations for this.  I am going to skip those explanations and say that it was my "what do you call it, my sobriquet..." (Grey Gardens reference, sorry). I never minded because I was part of a very big, extended family and when we were all together, I had people that belonged to me, besides my parents.  I liked that feeling.

Pete was the second of the Montera kids, and his sisters Nell and Toni were two and one year older than I, respectively.  We were great friends as well as cousins.
Annemarie, Pete and David were the big kids.
When Pete was a Senior in High School, he was cast as The Tin Man in The Wizard Of Oz at John Jay High School.  Nell and Toni were Munchkins, so their parents, Chickie (sobriquet) and Peter (sr.) took me to the show. It was my first Theatre experience.
All of this to say...I was in love in a very real way with my cousin Pete.  He lit up that stage, and I was taken by the whole experience.  If you know me, you know that the Theatre is a huge part of my life to this day and it is rooted in that performance.

With the expanse of years between us, we were not "close" by any means.  Pete left for the Navy and married a girl.  They had a son and I was still in second grade!  We saw very little of him over the years. Families are like that. Ours is, at least.  Sometimes I would get a post card from abroad, and they would be newsy and sweet. He always called me "cutie" or some other such term of endearment... after "Pookie" baby wore off.
At one point, I remember being in high school, (Senior Year, I think) and he came back to our home town for a few weeks.  I think his sister Nell will remember this too...he visited and we went out as a threesome.  I remember a few evenings out with him, and thinking at that time, he really was one of the most handsome men I knew.  If I'm not mistaken, he pressed his jeans...meticulous.
We had some good times, and I was entering adulthood.  I liked everything about Pete.  He was elegant.
After he went away again, more postcards, and I married shortly after high school, and he and I saw one another at another family gathering, a funeral for Nell's beloved husband, Al in 1986, I believe.  We joked about Pete's inability to grasp the idea that I was a "married woman" and we warmly shared the same ease and sweet familiarity we had always had together.  There was never any explanation for it.  We were just kindred spirits.

That was the last time I would ever see Pete.

Years went by.  Family spread across the country.  Sometimes we gathered, but not often, and certainly not enough.  We were never, and will never all be together again.

In 2004 I was diagnosed with the Big Breast Cancer, and word spread through the family.

Oh no...not Cheryl.  She's too young.  She just had that baby!  I can practically hear the banter between all of my sincerely concerned family members that had rarely seen or heard from me in the nineteen years since I had married, or nearly that long.  ...but a couple of e-mails arrived in my inbox.  I remember my cousin Annemarie, the eldest Montera kid sent me love and best wishes.  I was moved by the gesture.
Chickie & Peter were living locally so they were in the know about my treatment and they kept their kids "in the loop" to the extent that was proper.

My cousin Pete sent me what I would characterize as a "shy" email, almost introducing himself to me and apologizing for being a "guy" and not staying in touch over the years.  Imagine...an apology for something that we all, each and every one of us, as cousins was guilty of.
It was an email that was newsy, and informative of all things in his life since we had seen each other.  I answered with all of the wonderful things going on in my life, and probably a brief outline of what the Treatment Cycle was going to look like for the next six months or so.

Pete answered the following morning...and so it began.

Every Day. Monday through Friday, I would get an email from Pete.  I loved Mondays because they would tell about the weekend with his wife and boys,  and what the family did.
He would share his vacation planning. I remember when he was looking into a Disney Cruise for the family.
He shared with me that he called the Disney Cruise folks and when they quoted the price, he told them "I don't want to buy the ship...I want to cruise for a week!"  He was funny, and practical.  He shared some stories about his travels in the Navy, and lots of updates on his kids.
Sports they were involved in, grades they would bring home, anything that was of interest about what we shared in common, our love for our families.  Regan & Lucas are just a bit younger than Pete's twins, Justin & Jarrett.  Jackson is a bit older.  We shared daily conversation.  We connected as adults.  We took all of the extended  family dysfunction and locked it up someplace out of view, from which it could not escape, and we became a new kind of fresh, real family.  The kind one would choose if they had all the choices in the world.

Treatment ended.  I was cured.  Emails got fewer and farther between, but not forgotten.  We touched base about every two or three months, with news about the kids, or a Holiday wish.  In mid-January 2008 I shared with Pete the ordeal that Rosey had been through at the first of that month. She had a "terratoma" tumor the size of a coconut removed, and it had been a harrowing time for our family.  I reached out to Pete to share the story, as I knew he would want to know.  A couple of days later, an enormous bouquet of Cookies showed up on our porch for Rosey.  They were from Pete, Julie, Jackson, Justin and Jarrett.
That was only the beginning...

Rosey has received a bouquet of cookies for every holiday ever since.  Let me put that in perspective...
Six years of Cookie Bouquets about six times per year on the doorstep, for a little girl whom he never met.
Pete was an imaginary friend to Rosey.
Pete was a hero to my husband David.  Anyone that shows that kind of love to his family touches David's heart. He reached out to Pete via e-mail, randomly one time after a bouquet arrived.  They exchanged pleasantries about fatherhood and gratitude and family, our kind of chosen family.  I am so glad that happened.  Two of the most important people in my life connected over mutual love for family.
Last Father's Day, Rosey made a very special Father's Day Card for Pete.  An expression of gratitude, and an exercise in connecting.   I'm glad for that too.

I didn't mention that I receive a bouquet every Mother's Day, of my very own.
They arrive and I send an email thanking Pete, and he writes back to tell me how welcome I am.
This year, just last Sunday, I sat down and wrote a "proper" Thank You note to Pete, Julie and the boys.
I told him that I appreciate being remembered, and that I love him.
I'm not sure he got the Thank You note.
Pete was sick last week.  Something lingering, from what I've been told.
He died suddenly on Friday morning.  My cousin, one of the princes in my life and the life of my Rosey, passed away on Lucas' birthday.  He left behind four sons, three of which lived with him, one of which was grown.  He left behind a wife that by all accounts adored him.  He left behind a brother and three sisters that had been estranged from him, and some from each other over the years.  He left behind a Mother and Father. His Mother, is the matriarch of our side of the Woods family that remains.
We are not a "close" family. I received word of Pete's passing from Annemarie, his big sister, via a private Facebook Message.
How do you tell someone that a person who should be alive isn't alive anymore?  Is there an appropriate vehicle to deliver such news?  I am not certain that the Facebook message wasn't the best way to find out.
I was able to read it over and over.  "My brother Pete passed away last night.  We are all in shock."...
What? Read it again. What? Read it again.

I will end this post by telling you, readers, that I loved my cousin Pete very much.  The good news is that he knew it.  We stayed "close" with no expectations, no demands, we never even saw each other again, as we had planned..."this is going to be the year"...wishes don't always come true.
We stayed away from touchy subjects, and we never discussed our extended family.  We respected each other's boundaries.  I dare say, we didn't agree politically or on the topic of religion, but we never discussed such things so it didn't matter.  We talked about what we did agree about, our spouses, our kids, our daily lives, movies we'd seen, shows we'd attended, things that our lives are made up of on a daily, real, basis.
Love allows you to skip the things that don't matter. Love is what our lives are really comprised of, in the end.

I got to tell him I love him, but I didn't get to tell him, goodbye.
This is my "goodbye".
I will miss Peter P. Montera Jr. forever.  Forever...

May 22, 2014

Almost...

The idea to abandon social media appeals to me. It also frightens me.
What if they forget?
My cyber friends. The people that "like" my "stuff".
The people that tell me I'm doing a great job.
The people that validate me? 
Will I be missed?
Am I going to lose something I've valued? Old friends from high school that remember me as a young, hell raising, singing, love-sick, skinny, loud mouthed, teenager...will they forget that I'm now an old, he'll raising, singing, mothering, not so skinny, slightly quieter, grown up with whom they feel connected?
Some weren't even really friends, more like acquaintances. I feel like we're truly friends now.
Connected. 
There have been sacrifices. That's true. 
I am going to do it. I'm going to black out and hope that everyone comes here, to the blog.
I love the connection. 
I'm struggling.
I'm taking the leap on Monday. That will be the first of the hundred day respite.
I'll still be here.
Please don't forget.

Apr 13, 2014

Week In Review

Ah....Social Media.
I love it. I got a beautiful note in the mail from one who has found my Facebook inspiring.  He actually donated to Rosey's Boosterthon and wrote a note to her, about her mom.  Priceless.
He knew me years ago and finds my daily updates to my public status something that he looks forward to.
I appreciate that.  I love human connection.

On the other hand, Social Media has caused many private thoughts to be public, and that leads to misunderstanding.  I like sharing, and when things matter to me, or touch me, I like to share that with the folks that are interested to stay friends with me on Facebook.  If something sounds like it is about you, it might not be.  One never really knows an other's intentions, and that leads to a very dark "Three's Company" type situation, when feelings get hurt.

This week I turned 49.  I was honored to be "Employee of the Quarter" in the City where I work (Honored and Humbled).  Then things got ... not so great.
I don't plan to share more than is appropriate, but if you've gotten this far, you might be interested.
I was put in the position of defending myself (many times in a few days), and I've chosen not to do so.
That suffices for me and my conscience.

I am certain that unless one knows the entire story, they should perhaps give another soul the benefit of the doubt.
I was forced to make "decisions" that I had no intention of being involved in, and I will never know if I was right or wrong.  I will be content in my intention.  I will be second guessed and vilified by those who have chosen to be passive when they had every opportunity to step up.  I will survive judgment. I always have.

I have come to some very strong conclusions through it all.  I will continue to share my life and my thoughts and whatever I feel is appropriate to share.  I will hope that what I post touches a heart, or gives information, or bridges a gap.  I am not a spectacular daughter.  I have been very much reminded of that over the past 24 hours by people who do not know me.  I am not a spectacular friend. I have been reminded of that by many people, including "friends" that have disappeared from my life and put the blame for that on something that I did or didn't do. I am not a spectacular citizen of the earth.  I use plastic bags and water bottles. I am not a spectacular wife. The man I married is far better at everything than I am when it comes to the holy bond of marriage (we've been married 29 years today).  I strive to be a good mother.  I think it has taken over all other aspirations, and I believe it is when I write about my motherhood that people respond.
I am not perfect. I am flawed, and I am also LARGE in my mistakes and my life in general.  There are very few times that I am present and no one knows I'm there.
...but I'm 49 years old.  I take full responsibility for every bit of it.
I am not every one's cup of tea. I don't mind that.
I am Employee of the Quarter. I am Zachary, Regan, Lucas and Rosey's Mom, I am David's Wife, Mackensie's Mother in Law, Jack's sleeping companion, and I am content in the seat where I sit at this moment and the view that I have in my windshield ahead.  The rear view shows nothing that I regret, and I am going to sail on until I fail so big that there is no picking up the pieces.  I am going to live this one, huge, wonderful, life that I've been given.
We are promised nothing, and I will hold no grudge. I've seen what it is like to be angry, or feel like one is owed something by someone.  Futile. Ugly. Graceless.
That is not who I want to be.  I will strive to be a "Steel Magnolia," the adopted name from the region that I have made my home for longer than any other.  A delicate flower from a most beautiful tree, that is one of my favorites.  What I have gleaned is that the shade from my Magnolia is only comfortable for those with the most exquisite understanding of what that phrase means.
I'm thankful for those of you who have read this.
It means that you care.

Feb 17, 2014

A New Idea...

I read an interesting article in Somerset Life, a quarterly magazine that I love. It was about falling in love with your blog...sounds crazy.
The thing about it was, it hit home.
I love the Artistic Blogs...they're the ones I visit to be inspired.  I just can't pull that kind of content off.
I am not a photographer.  My world is kind of out of kilter, most of the time, so my photos wouldn't reflect the true beauty of my life, because I am kind of the queen of the gorgeous mess.
The thing I come back to all the time when I think of how badly I'd like to "dare to imagine a different life"
( I'm para phrasing "You've Got Mail" when Kathleen tells Birdie she's closing the store....I digress) is this; that life includes sharing ideas and stories.

I think that's what I am meant to be doing.  A true "second act".
I see myself clearly.  I have had the best run as an entertainer, and I'd like to continue to do that when the opportunity arises for me to be on stage.  Look, I love the spotlight, and a microphone, so I will never want to be away completely.
I have the pleasure of being able to host events at the Theatre where my son is the Artistic Director, and that gives me the chance to see him use his talents everyday, as I help him pull together loose ends every once in a while. I have the distinct honor of being the mother of all different sorts of artists, actor/director/singers/musicians/writers/visual artists...we have all of these people wrapped up into what is our family.  I love the idea of sharing the journey that is being the mother of and raising artists.
I also love the idea of sharing the story of this life with other moms or women, or men, or artists, or anyone else that is interested in knowing about it.
I have had very unique experiences.  They are all worth sharing, even if only to give someone who is searching a bit of perspective about what can be overcome, or understood, or enjoyed about some of life's curve balls.
I think I'm going to take a page out of that article I read and just write more and worry less.
I am going to share more in hopes that I can change someone's day, every once in a while if they should stumble upon what I share.
I am going to try harder to be a force for good when I am able and think my thoughts through in a way that is pleasing to the reader. I want to make them wish to know more and come back to visit again and again, the way we've built an audience at the Theatre.
So that's what I've been thinking about lately....
Thoughts?