Wednesday, February 27, 2008

OMG, Becky!

To quote my cousin Claire... OMG, BECKY!

Today, Rosie O'Donnell answered my post on her blog. Now, I know she's controversial, and many more people on this earth probably hate her than love her. But I love her. I can't help myself. When her talk show was on TV, she did more to single-handedly pump life into Broadway than anyone else on mainstream TV. She constantly had Broadway casts on her show, and I loved seeing them since I have only been to New York twice in my life! So today, on, I see that she's going to be playing Madame Thenardier in a concert version of Les Miserables this summer, and that's one of my dream roles. I had to go to her site and comment. She actually responded to me!!!! SO COOL! Look here, and scroll down. I think I'm the 7th comment for the blog posted on February 27th at 3:32 p.m. (If she's already posted something new since then, you can hit the "previous" button at the bottom of the page) Awesome!


1. We're in school today! We'll still get two rehearsals before the show, even though one of them will be right before the show happens!

2. Yesterday I spoke on campus to an "Exceptional Student" class. It was fun, and they had lots of interesting questions about talented and gifted students and programs. I hope I get to do more things like that.

3. FA&CC board met last night, and Edges didn't lose any money... that's a great thing for a brand new facility. I haven't written about it yet, but the show this weekend was FREAKING AMAZING! I ended up going three times. I don't think I have ever been so emotionally moved by a piece of theatre in my entire life. The music was inspiring and fresh. I laughed, I cried... it was completely incredible. I've had the songs in my head for days, and it's killing me that the show is so new, there's not even a cast recording yet! Ugh! I guess I'll have to remember them from memory!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Now I normally love a snow day as much as anyone, but this is getting ridiculous! Today's snow day puts our last day of school at June 5. But way worse than that, my kids are missing their last dress rehearsal!!!! Since it's church night tomorrow, we won't have time to be in costume. We'll run the show with sound, lights, and props, and hopefully get done. Then, on Thursday after school, we'll have our last dress rehearsal, I'll let them go get something to eat, and then they'll come back to do the show. Not ideal, but they REALLY need another dress rehearsal. I'm just trying to breathe. Everything will be OK. Everything will be OK. Everything will be OK. Everything will be OK. Everything will be OK. Everything will be OK. Everything will be OK. Everything will be OK. Everything will be OK. Everything will be OK. Everything will be OK. If I say it enough, I'm sure I will start to believe it! :)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Charlotte's Web

I started this blog entry last Thursday night during conferences. Then, I got completely swamped and didn't have time to finish it. 2/25/08

It's weird to think, but in just one week + a few hours, Charlotte's Web will be a piece of history. Tomorrow is our first dress rehearsal, and it's always an intense morning. Here's what led us to this point:

I chose the show this fall. We do one production per year, and I alternate straight plays and musicals. This is a straight play year. I wanted a good piece of literature with a lot of parts, since the musical last year did not have a chorus. I ordered scripts and paid royalties out of my activities account which is fed by last year's ticket sales.

I missed a week of school in December when my grandma died. I had to delay auditions just a bit, but everything worked out. For auditions, the kids come to the cafetorium after school. If they just want to be on crew, they fill out a sheet and rank their preferences for crew. Then they get to leave. This year I have an enormous cast of 42, so my crew positions are only filled with kids who only wanted to be on crew. For other shows, I usually am limited in my number of cast members, so kids who didn't make the show always have the option of participating on a crew. I have pretty massive crews during those years, but I want as many kids to participate as possible. This year I have a set crew who helped build and paint, a prop/stage crew who gathered and made props and will move things during the production, a publicity crew in charge of making the posters and programs, and a sound/light crew in charge of running the lights and sound during the show.

During actual auditions, students take turns reading different parts for me. I make notes on their audition forms, and I try to hear kids reading lots of different roles. We have terrible acoustics in our cafetorium, so unfortunately, I sometimes have to consider a student's projection above potential acting ability. I also watch for how comfortable they are in front of a group, if they read naturally and with inflection, and how they relate to other actors on stage. I always try to end auditions with "going for a walk." The entire group walks across the stage in a single-file line, and I give them a character to portray. The trick is they can't talk... I want to see the character in their walk and posture and gestures.

I was able to get the cast list up and have the first read-through before Christmas break. This is super helpful because then the kids have their scripts and can be reading and learning lines over break. They're pretty excited at this point, so they really do work during that time. I also got the schedule worked out. This is an involved process because I want to use the kids' time as wisely as possible. 50 kids just sitting around every day is enough to make the most stable person blow a gasket, so when we're talking about me, I have to have a different plan of attack.

Here's where I'm continuing for today...

I look at my script and go through each scene, making note of which characters are in which scenes. I then combine them accordingly to make sections. It means that the kids have to learn the script out of order, jumping from scene to scene, but it means I'm using their time as efficiently as possible. It prevents a lot of behavior issues. It also gives the kids a day off once in awhile, unless they're one of the leads. This helps keep the motivation up throughout the cast. For this show, we have 4 sections.

We start with blocking rehearsals, where everyone is on book, and I give them their blocking... where they stand, when they move, where they enter, etc. From there, we move on to working rehearsals. With scripts still in hand, they practice the stage directions I've given. Running rehearsals come next and hopefully go without stopping. By this time, they should be off book and memorized.

We work into running Act I and Act II straight through with props about 2 weeks before the show. My prop crew works from close to the beginning to gather everything we need. I really hate that part of the job, and I'm lucky to have Heather and Cathy, 2 fellow teachers, who take charge of my prop crew for me. I have a great parent, Darien, who builds my set. I like to keep things simple, but what I have, I want to look good. He's great at reading my mind. He's also good about letting the kids help and teaching them how to use the tools. I'll never forget last year, one of my students went home and told his dad, "Dad, girls with power tools are HOT!" Cracked me up! Costumes are usually simple too. I'd rather have basic pieces and few changes, for my sanity's sake... especially with a cast of 42! My publicity crew works whenever they can, typing up the program and making posters.

The Friday before the show is always the day off for conferences. My kids come in from 9-12, and we have our first dress rehearsal, and we add lights and sound. It's always an intense day, but we survived. Tonight was our second dress rehearsal. I had a student home throwing up, one who didn't let me know why they were gone, two in detention, and one who had to leave for a passport photo (she also has to be gone tomorrow for this... don't get me started and don't ask me why... I don't have a clue). So, all that considered, it went well. We ran until 5:30 and still didn't get all the way done. Weather permitting, we'll have our longest rehearsal tomorrow night. We'll start where we left off tonight, take notes, and then run the whole thing again. Wednesday won't be in costume. Tuesday is always hellish, so I back off and let them slack and have fun on Wednesday. It's not worth it to have them stressed out the night before, plus, I can't rehearse late because it's church night. Our shows will be on Thursday and Friday nights, and I have a couple of parents who are hosting all 60ish kids after the Friday show for the cast party.

Monday we'll strike the set and get things back to relative normality. Whatever that is. So, say an extra prayer for me and for the weather and for all of my cast and crew. It's an exciting week, that's for sure!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


1. I have a good rapport with my students. They trust me enough to really talk to me. I don't always like what I hear, especially when I get details of their love lives (anyone have some rolaids? or earplugs?), but it means a lot that they feel comfortable with me. I'm grateful for that.

2. Tonight I have the rare treat of seeing a movie with some friends. Choir is canceled for tonight... our accompanist is out of town, and several members are going to be gone. So, I'm going to see Atonement with some friends. A good movie, popcorn for supper... what more could I ask for... especially in this crazy week?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just for a smile...

Saw this on a friend's blog today and had to share. It cracked me up, but I'm kind of obsessed with Guitar Hero right now... ;)

Parent/Teacher Conferences

This week is a marathon, and I'm barely out of the starting gate. Today's stretch of race is culminating in parent/teacher conferences. Right now I'm sitting at my table, in the vast expanse of our cafetorium, waiting for my next... customer? victim? It's hard to know how to label it all.

The Tuesday of 3rd quarter conferences is in the cafetorium, with everybody all together. It's loud, and I usually have a line waiting to see me. It's not super busy tonight, but the spring is never as well-attended as the fall. On Thursday, we'll have a soup supper (we're trying to raise money for hanging microphones for our stage), so the cafetorium will be used for eating. We'll meet with parents in our classrooms. I never minded that before this year because I had a room with a folding divider wall. The teacher next door and I would always keep the wall open a little so we could chat in the down time. Now that I'm in a different room, it might not be as much fun. We'll see.

Really, the last 2-3 years are the first that I've felt comfortable with the whole parent/teacher conference thing. It's awkward being in your twenties, telling parents about their own children. I know one side of them, and I'm a pretty good judge of character, but how kids are at school is not always how they are at home. I am finally to the point where I feel I can be totally honest with parents and don't have to word things carefully or sugar coat issues. Plus, I'm finally getting to the point where I'm closer to the parents' ages. Though it's disturbing to really think that I could have an adolescent child, age really helps a lot. I feel like the parents take me more seriously now. Maybe it's all in my head.

Our conferences last from 5:00 until 8:30, and in the fall, I didn't move out of my chair until after 8:00. Talk about having bleacher butt! I can tell that the crowd is thinner tonight, so hopefully I'll still have some circulation left by the end of the evening.

Remember my Diet Mt. Dew post? Ever since I heard that research, I've been craving Diet Mt. Dew even more. I should try to go cold turkey after the play is over. I know all those chemicals aren't good for me, but I think chemicals are the only things that are going to get me through these next few weeks. I'm drinking Diet Mt. Dew #4 today. That's so ridiculous, and somewhat embarrassing to admit. I think I might need a 12 step program. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

Hi, my name is Tena. I'm a Diet Dew-aholic.

Monday, February 18, 2008


1. I got home at about midnight last night from working on the set and finishing up my midterm grades. When I got home, my dad had been there and plowed out my driveway. He'd also brought the dog home because he and Alice kept him while I was in Ames. They'd even given him a bath! Thanks, Dad!

2. Today I came into school to start to get things cleaned up for conferences. What I found waiting for me was our faithful maintenance man, Stan, taking advantage of no kids in the building to finish putting in my LCD projector. I'm so excited to have it done. GO STAN!

3. With all the stress of the upcoming weeks ahead, I took full advantage of this day and slept late. Ahhhhh.... rest!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

No School Again

That's right... they've already called off school for tomorrow. We are seriously going to be in school until July at this point. I don't mind going later into June, but my kids are going to miss ANOTHER rehearsal! This is getting scary. We're 7 rehearsals away from production. Everyone says I always freak out at this stage, but I think I have a reason to freak out this year. I hope everything comes together.

Now, I'm just going to try to be grateful for the day of rest and sleeping in tomorrow, all snug in my warm house. It will also give me a chance to help more with the blood drive at church (provided they don't cancel it) and to clean up my classroom before conferences on Tuesday and Thursday. It's pretty much a disaster area. My desk is always a disaster area, but with 5 of my 6 classes working on projects... there is hardly room to move and hardly an empty flat surface available!

This weekend was very fun though. It was awesome chaperoning for the speech team. They took the banner for choral reading, which means that in that category (there are 10 different categories) they had the best choral reading in the entire state. Making All-State is the highest level of achievement in the competition, but taking a banner is like winning the lottery on top of that. In the following pics, coach Fred Hucke (one of the 3 team coaches) is accepting the banner. The choral reading banner is the green one, second from the left.Of the 15 kids in that piece, I think 12 are former students of mine. It was great experiencing the day with them. I was very proud... as my mom, grandma, and great-grandma would say, I was busting my buttons!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Weekly Update... Craziness Preview

It's time to buckle my seatbelt, because I'm entering my craziest time of the year. Here's a little overview of the next few weeks...

Today, I have rehearsal with my students until 5:00. I leave from there, run home to grab my suitcase, and head over to the high school to leave with the speech team at 5:15. I'm chaperoning their All-State trip. It will be so much fun! We get back Saturday night. I'll pick up the dog from my dad's either then or on Sunday morning. Sunday morning I'm teaching Sunday School then directing the choir at church. Sunday afternoon I'll go to school to figure my midterm grades and to detail the set pieces. Sunday evening we're hanging the painted flats.

Monday after school and rehearsal, I'm helping with teardown at my church's blood drive. Tuesday is a short school day, with rehearsal, and parent/teacher conferences in the evening. We'll repeat that day again on Thursday. Friday, Feb. 22, is a day off... well, for some people! We don't have school, but I'm having my kids' first dress rehearsal from 9-12. I have a 1:00 haircut and a 3:00 dental appointment. In between those 2 things, I hope to meet up with my Aunt Lois and Uncle Robert since my aunt will be in town. That night I have tickets to see Edges, the second self-produced show at the Sondheim Center. Hopefully, if things are going well with the play, I'll get out of town for a day or two that weekend.

The next week is the week of the show. We'll have dress rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday of that week. I also have FA&CC board on Tuesday and church choir on Wednesday. The play is Thursday and Friday, with the cast party Friday night (bless the parents who take that on... 60 kids in their house, all on performance high!). Then, I take my 6th grade TAG students to Invent Iowa in Oskaloosa on Saturday for competition.

March 9 will be auditions for Godspell, the spring show at the Sondheim Center. March 10 will be auditions for Annie, the summer FACT show. My 7th grade TAG students go to History Day on March 18, and my 8th grade TAG students have their big Images of Greatness show on the night of March 20.

Spring break is the following week, March 22-29. If I can make it until then, I'll be lucky. I hope to get away for awhile then, maybe up to Minneapolis to see my friend Jeff. I'll have 7th grade research papers to grade, but grading them in different scenery will be OK with me! Everyone say a prayer that I make it through the next 6 weeks relatively unscathed!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Set Crew... or... The Demon Teacher of Fleet Street (actually, it's Fillmore)

In case anyone was wondering... when the set flats for your play are white with multicolored polka dots, it takes an ungodly amount of red paint to cover them. Also, when you're painting said flats all red to be your barn for Charlotte's Web, and you're having your middle schoolers do the painting, you're all going to look like axe murderers by the end of the evening. It's a little weird for Valentine's Day that I now look like I'm a serial killer. Then again, it might be appropriate. Hmmmm......

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fairfield Arts and Convention Center

One of my biggest sources of pride in Fairfield is our new facility, the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center. It's the home of the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts. I'm a member of it's resident touring company, The Encore Players, which is the first professional touring musical theatre company in Iowa.

This picture is one of our publicity shots from our second show called Celebrate Sondheim. It's a revue of Stephen Sondheim songs and was created to not only entertain, but to help people understand who Stephen Sondheim is and how he has changed musical theatre. We performed this show in the Pavilion side of our facility because our theatre wasn't finished yet. We're really blessed to have our theatre named for such a genius.

The first Encore Players show happened before we even had a building at all. We performed Musical of Musicals, the Musical! in two different Fairfield locations. We also toured all over southeast Iowa. We were the fourth company to ever do this show, and we were honored to host its creators from New York during our opening weekends. Ours was the first production of the show that did not directly involve them, so they were very excited to see how another company would interpret their work.

After Celebrate Sondheim, I was lucky enough to be cast in a workshop production of the new musical, Happy Hour! by George Furth and Doug Katsaros. They came to Fairfield to workshop the show with us before it heads to New York. I don't think I've ever had such an amazing theatre experience. We learned the show in 2 1/2 weeks, and we had changes to make in the script and music after every rehearsal and performance. It was intense and FUN! I think I really grew during the process. And, it was so cool working with George and Doug!

All these experiences took place before the Sondheim Center even opened. I'll have to write more about the Opening Gala later, but we just finished our first self-produced event... a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring Richard Kind! It was a smash, and even though I wasn't on stage for this one, I was so proud! Being in our space, you'd honestly swear you were in Chicago or Minneapolis, or dare I say... New York!

I've been a board member for the Center for two years, and I've learned so much. During my first meeting, I really thought I had made a mistake. I didn't understand anything they were talking about, and it took me 2 hours to figure out that HVAC meant "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning!" Now that the facility is built and running, I'm feeling much more at home and much more useful. I'm chair of the programming committee. That committee is in charge of planning the Presents series... all the performances that will present in our space that aren't part of the Broadway season. Check out the Center's website at Also, if you're a supporter of the arts (and the arts always need to be SUPPORTED... they are almost never self-funding), I'd love for you to become a supporter of the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center. Comment here to ask me how!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Say It Ain't So!

This was on Good Morning America this morning. What is a Diet Mt. Dew lover supposed to do? I know, I know... drink water. I like drinking water, but I love drinking Diet Mt. Dew. Ugh. It's not fair. I'm not a coffee drinker (well, unless you're counting a peppermint mocha frappuccino as coffee... and as much as I love them, they are far from good for me, not to mention that Fairfield has no Starbucks!), and I'm not a morning person. I have to be perky and inspire hoards of adolescent minds every day. A girl needs her caffeine!

Monday, February 11, 2008

A New Fishy Way of Thinking

Here I am on Lake Tahoe with my 22 1/2" Mackinaw (sp?) Trout. Yes, I caught this baby the weekend before New Year's. And I was pretty darned proud of myself. Thanks, Cameron, for sending me the pic today.

I also have my cousins to thank for this experience, probably in a way they didn't expect. There's a big part of me that is against hunting and fishing for sport. I just have trouble killing creatures for fun. Now, if the meat is going to be used for food, I think that's another thing. I do believe that's OK and that maybe the purpose of that creature being here is to feed and nourish other creatures, mainly us. So, when on an unforgettable vacation, my cousins invite me to go fishing on Lake Tahoe, the adventurous spirit in me says, "Heck yes, I'll go!" The other part of me says, "I feel bad for the fish." Dilemma. I'm no vegetarian by any means, but I just feel bad hurting another living thing. Maybe that's hypocritical of me to eat meat but not want to hurt animals... I don't know.

As you can see, I went. And I'm SO GLAD I did. It was fun and exciting, and I'll never forget the feeling as I had a bite and reeled it in. I was totally and completely caught up in it. I didn't care that it was cold or that it was early. It was so beautiful out there on the water, watching the silhouettes of the mountains take shape as the sun came up. It was so fun cheering on the person who was reeling in the next fish. I had a blast. We kept Claire's fish (it was delicious) and let all the others go.

Yes, there was a little blood, and I know it can't be the most comfortable feeling being pulled toward a boat by your lips, but it also got me thinking. How many of us go through life unscarred? Inside or out? We all have battle wounds... some of them show and some of them don't. My epiphany moment happened when I watched Steve let his fish go. He held it so gently and talked to it as he put it back in the water. He wished it luck and long life. I swear, I think he would have kissed it if he could! ;) I just watched him. I really saw how much he respects life and the outdoors. He loves nature so much, and he's instilling that love in his kids too. I really stepped into their shoes and saw another view of life and the world. I love it when that happens.

When I read the biography of Teddy Roosevelt (a completely fascinating and unique person, if you haven't ever read or seen anything about him... I read The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt & Theodore Rex, both by Edmund Morris), I remember thinking that I didn't understand how he could want to create National Parks and preserve and cherish nature but also be a big game hunter. I still don't completely understand it, but I'm closer, and it's thanks to Steve, Cameron, and Claire... and this 22 1/2" Mackinaw Trout. We look kind of cute together, don't you think? :)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weekly Update

My grandma loved her e-mail. She didn't understand a damned thing about her computer, but she loved being able to send e-mail to all her friends and loved ones. It was especially a blessing when her hearing got so bad that trying to have a phone conversation with her pretty much made you want to slit your wrists. With e-mail, she didn't have to feel bad about not hearing, and the person on the other end didn't have to yell. Anyway, she used to send this mass e-mail to all the friends and relatives. They were her "Weekly Updates." Just newsy, not all that interesting, but they let people know what she'd been up to.

I was thinking that without her around, I'm going to have to make more of an effort to stay in touch with the family. She was always the glue that kind of held us all together. So, in an effort to do that, I'll have some posts labeled "Weekly Updates." I doubt they'll actually be up weekly, but it's the spirit of the thing, right? I'll send a mass e-mail to everyone about my blog, and they can check it out here if they're interested in the details of all that is my life. So here goes my first little tribute in Grandma's honor... the first Weekly Update...

Weather was the biggie this week. It made teaching interesting, that's for sure. We had a late start Monday, an early out on Tuesday, no school on Wednesday, and a late start again on Thursday. We finally managed to have a complete day of school on Friday. You'd think the week would go quickly like this, but I swear it felt longer than normal.

We canceled Delta Kappa Gamma for Tuesday night. In a way, I was glad because we were supposed to have it out at Sunnybrook. They have a nice area to meet at the end of the blue hallway, and we've done that once before. But, I just really didn't love the idea of having to go past Grandma's room with someone else inside living there now. That might seem weird, but it was kind of freaking me out. I think I'm dealing with things really well, but I wasn't looking forward to that. Maybe she took care of things for me, or at least put in a word with the big guy. ;) If we don't make the meeting up, I only have one meeting left as Co-President! I have learned a lot from the experience, but I'll be glad to see the end of this 4 years.

I canceled church choir on Wednesday night, but that didn't matter too much since we didn't sing today. FACT (Fairfield Area Community Theatre) board met on Thursday night. We're doing Annie for our summer show, and I think I'll audition. I haven't done a FACT show in a couple of years, and I would love love love to play Miss Hannigan. We'll see what happens.

Friday after school was book club. We have several heavy selections on the book list for this year, so I decided that we needed a light, funny book to balance it out. I chose Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegone Days. I always enjoy listening to Garrison Keillor, and I loved seeing him when he was at the State Fair... BUT... the book was about the most boring thing I've ever tried to read in my entire life. UGH! I abandoned it, and I can't remember the last time I abandoned a book. Plus, I NEVER abandon a book club book! It was unbearable. Everyone in discussion agreed. We came to the conclusion that Garrison Keillor's gift comes in the storytelling... not the writing. Blech! Next month's book is The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult. I've already finished it. Not the best thing I ever read in my life, but interesting. And a much faster read than this month's... that's for sure! I think we'll have a good discussion on it.

On Friday night, I had supper and spent the evening at Jason & Suzanne's. Their kids are 4 & 2 and a lot of fun. It was low key and nice to be with them.

My principal is retiring at the end of this year, and all the interview process is done. They should be announcing the new principal tomorrow, or at least this week. I'm scared/excited/apprehensive/optimistic about having a new boss. It will be interesting to see how our staff reacts to the announcement this week. We will also have a new superintendent next year, so we're really going to have a lot of adjusting to do. I don't know if they've interviewed for that job yet, but I'm probably more nervous about that than having a new principal. The whole tone of the district changes with a new superintendent. I must be getting old, because I like change less and less! I just have to remind myself to be positive and open-minded. I usually am, but reminders never hurt!

Hope everyone else had a great week too. Feel free to leave comments, and we'll see you back here soon...

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Is it me, or are scrapbookers like a cult? Right now, the whole cafetorium (yes, that's what we call it) of my school is filled with women and their 80 pieces each of luggage all filled with scrapbooking stuff. I've never seen so much crafty crap in my whole life. The elementary teacher in me is drawn to it all, I must admit... all the stickers and ribbons and colored paper... but it's a little much. They're here from 9 in the morning until 9 at night! 12 hours of unbridled scrapbooking. I call them the Smug Marrieds (read Bridget Jones' Diary if you don't get it). They hate that. But I refuse to spend my Saturday with a bunch of married women scrapbooking their lives. What am I supposed to scrapbook exactly, my dog? How sad would that be? "Look... here is Avery sitting on the couch. Here is Avery running through the leaves. Here is Avery playing tug-of-war with the straps on my straitjacket!" I'm not going to say I haven't ever scrapbooked, and I'm not going to say that I won't scrapbook ever again, but if I start hanging with the Smug Marrieds every Friday or Saturday night at this point in my life, someone please just kill me!

Friday, February 8, 2008


Well, after hearing that Yahoo 360 is going to be kaput soon, I decided to move into the real blogging world, posting my thoughts for the world to see. On Yahoo 360, I'd always kept things pretty private, only letting people view by invitation. It feels weird to totally put myself out there for the universe, but it feels good too. I'll probably have different kinds of posts: the documenting of my days, creative writing (if I feel so moved), blessings, and things that I'm thinking about that I just want to write out and put into words somehow. Today's blog will be one of those.

Here is my big inner change of the year:

I belong to a prayer group that meets on Fridays. We practice Contemplative Prayer, which is very similar to meditation. It's good for me because I have so many things flying around in my brain that it's good to learn to be quiet and listen for a change. Ever since I've been doing this, which has been about 10 years off and on, my word/mantra/focus/whatever has been "hope." I love the word and all the optimism it implies.

I've had a hard year this year. My grandma got sick in September and passed away (I actually really hate the term "passed away." I have no idea why I typed it.) in December. She and I have always been close, but especially since my mom died. I would actually say that the last couple of years have been difficult. I've had a sense of, "Is this it? Is this all?" I guess I've felt unfulfilled, like I'm waiting for my life to actually start.

Early this fall, I decided I needed a change. Despite my (somewhat illogical) loyalty to "hope," I changed my focus to a line from a John Bucchino song that I really love called "Grateful." The line says, "Grateful, grateful, truly grateful I am." You can listen to it on It's the opening track on this cd The whole thing is good, by the way. The song "This Moment" is one I regularly use for auditions and performing. But I digress...

This change of words might sound small and insignificant, but in me, it's made a big difference. I have noticed the good in things more. Even in terrible things, I've been able to see the good. It's really helped me deal with my grandma's death and focus on the gift I was given of spending her last few days on earth by her side. Blessings have fallen in my lap, despite the struggle of this year. I became a Nationally Board Certified teacher. I shared the stage with a slew of Broadway stars for the opening gala of the Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts. I workshopped a George Furth musical called Happy Hour, working with the Tony Award winning author himself. Man, I grew as a performer during that process. I've held my best friend's new baby in my arms. I had the time of my life with my cousins after Christmas in California. It's like a shift has happened inside of me. I mentioned it to Tracy (my best friend), and she had a great take on it all. She said when I concentrate on HOPE, it implies that something is lacking in my life... that I'm waiting for more to come to be happy. By concentrating on GRATEFUL, I've been able to be thankful for what I have. I wouldn't say I'm completely content with what I have... I don't know that I ever want to stop striving for things... but, I've been able to enjoy what's there already. And because of that, it seems more and more things happen to be grateful for.
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