Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fort Mountain Ranch Update

Hello again from the ranch. I'm still having the time of my life with my cousins. A lucky development happened two days ago, and my cousin TJ and his son Noah drove up for a few days. So, they've joined in the merriment!

Monday's highlight was shooting. It was so fun!!! We started with the 22, and then we went to pistols... first the 22, then the 38. We fired at paper targets and several little metal spinner targets that reminded me a little of an amusement park shooting gallery. They were my favorite. Then we tried skeet shooting with the shotgun. I really stunk at that. I didn't hit a single one, but boy, was it fun. It makes me want to talk my dad into getting a clay pigeon thrower for out on the farm. To end the session, I got to shoot the 45 semi-automatic pistol. That was by far my favorite. I was spinning that target like crazy! I'm definitely not a hunter myself, but I could get into target shooting. Kelly's husband Steve is very into safety, so I felt totally sure of myself and confident about how to use the guns safely. That helped a lot. Steve is a great teacher. Kelly's friends Ted & Brad were especially hysterical to have with us. Brad had never held a gun before, and now I think he's addicted!

Tuesday we hiked along the irrigation ditch up to "the meadow." It was a beautiful walk with good company. That afternoon, we took the four-wheelers up the mountain again. We got up to the top right as the sun was ready to dip beyond the mountains. The whole mountain view was bathed in golden light. It was breathtaking. With all the fresh air, I slept like a baby again. I don't remember the last time I felt so relaxed.

This morning, Noah fixed us chocolate chip pancakes... mmm! I read for a while, and then Claire, Steve, Noah, TJ, & I went on a short ride up the mountain since TJ & Noah are headed out this afternoon. We watched a guy up on the mountain getting rid of underbrush and small trees with this bulldozer thing with massive jaws. Steve is trying to thin out some of the underbrush and smaller trees up on the mountain to guard against forest fires and encourage the big trees to grow bigger. It was interesting to watch, and that thing is one powerful piece of machinery. We also saw thousands and thousands of hibernating ladybugs which was cool. Now we're catching up on correspondence and waiting for some new friends to arrive for New Year's Eve. That's one of the best parts of the ranch... there are always new, fun, interesting people to meet. My cousins are so generous in sharing Fort Mountain Ranch, and I'm so grateful!

More to come, so stay tuned!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Greetings from Fort Mountain Ranch... Stay Tuned... Pictures to Come

After a shaky start with Christmas night in a hotel room in Des Moines and several delayed flights, I arrived in Sacramento on the night of the 26th. It was all worth it. Steve, Kate, and Claire met me at the airport and we drove back to the ranch. Uncle Ben and Aunt Twila were both still at the ranch, so I got to spend some time with them too. The lodge was all decked out for the holidays, and everything was just as perfect as I'd remembered it from last year. But the very best thing of all has been being with my cousins again. Claire gave me her bed the first night. I was so tired from my trip, so I turned in early.

Yesterday morning, Claire and I trekked out on her pimped up Mule (it even has a flashing light on the top now like an emergency vehicle), and we saw all the new sights. I hadn't met the two new baby horses yet... they were so cute!!! It was cool seeing what all had changed from the last time I was here. The blacksmith shop is coming along, and miles of new fencing has been added. I was happy to see Craig and Julie (the ranch managers) again, and I met some new friends, Randy, Celeste, and Briana, as well. Claire led us on a hike in the afternoon up to the rock slide and a hidden waterfall on the side of the mountain. The dusting of snow glittered on the pine needles, and the tree trunks were covered with soft bright green moss. It was beautiful. The girls and I took the new "Limo" Mule up the mountain to meet Kelly's friends Ted and Brad in the afternoon. They're staying at the guest house, and Randy, Celeste, and Briana are staying at the duplex. Uncle Ben and Aunt Twila had to head home, so after saying goodbye to them, I moved into their suite. We had a great dinner last night, complete with fresh striped bass that Cameron hadcaught that day. Wine, laughter, conversation, hugs... it was the perfect evening. I fell into the big bed of the suite and was practically asleep before I hit the pillow. There's nothing like the fresh mountain air to tucker a person out, in the best way possible.

Today I woke up, showered, and ate a big plate of pancakes that Steve had fixed. Now, we're getting ready to take the 4-wheelers up the mountain for a picnic. We also plan on having some shooting range adventures this afternoon.

It's so good to be here. I'm so blessed to have a family like mine. Thank you, Kelly, Steve, Cameron, Kate, and Claire, for having me here and sharing Fort Mountain Ranch with me. I love you all so much...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Wishes of peace and joy from me to you. I hope your holiday is filled with family and laughter. I hope your New Year is prosperous. Blessings...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Love Actually

Love Actually. I love this movie.  It might honestly be my favorite Christmas movie.  I know it's no Miracle on 34th Street (the Maureen O'Hara version is the only version, in my opinion) or It's a Wonderful Life (the scene where George is a boy and he stops the poisoned prescription from going out is the one I caught on TV tonight before my first church service... messed me up good).  It's not even A Christmas Story (one of the only movies in history my dad actually likes).  But... there are so many good scenes and so many good people.  I love how it's honest.  Some of the stories have happy endings, and some don't, but they're all about love, and they're all set at Christmastime.  Plus, seriously, how can you go wrong with a movie that has Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, AND Colin Firth? I don't think you can! Here are a few of my favorite scenes...

Love is everywhere.  Love actually is all around.  Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I'm Mixed

Last night before our final performance, Steve came in and asked me how I was feeling.  "I'm mixed," was how I replied.  That sums it up.  I'm mixed.

* I'm grieving the show being over.

* I'm still on a high from having such a great audience for our last show.

* I'm a little red-wine-headachy.

* I'm emotionally full... the whole thing was such a rewarding, satisfying experience.  

* I'm emotionally tender... the holidays always wear down my callouses and leave me feeling very vulnerable.

* I'm exhausted, both physically and mentally.

* I'm overcome by all I have to accomplish this week.

* I'm excited to leave for California.  I can't wait to see my cousins.  

* I'm dreading the last two crazy days of school.

* I'm looking forward to the talent show Monday.

* I'm thankful for Friday's ice day, but I'm a glutton, and I want more!

* I have a cough, a sore throat, and I feel generally crummy.

* I'm grateful for all the blessings in my life.  As every Christmas card comes in, I'm reminded of the treasures of friendship and family.

* I'm torn between needing a nap  and needing to finish my Christmas cards in the off time today between strike at 1:30 and our cast party tonight at 7.

* I'm procrastinating going out at all because it is FREAKING COLD!  It's never a good thing when the thermometer on your car says -2.  And that's not even counting the wind chill!

* I'm excited to see my brother on Christmas Eve.  It's just not Christmas Eve without him.

See?  I'm mixed.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bracing Ourselves

For the third time in three weeks, we had an early-out.  A massive ice storm is due to hit Iowa this afternoon.  It was supposed to be here by noon, but now they're saying 3:00, and from how the map looks, it could be even later than that.  Who knows how it will end up, but it doesn't look good for having school tomorrow.  It would be nice to have a day off when I have cards to write and presents to wrap, but I'm just worried that we won't have an audience for our last two shows this weekend.  I'm already dreading the show being over.  I just want to end on a really high note.  We'll see.  I won't count my icicles before they hatch.

I had the most amazing Secret Santa at school this week.  We draw names after Thanksgiving, and for a week before Christmas, we give our person little gifts each day, ending with a bigger gift on the last day where we have a party and all is revealed.  It's always fun, but this year, my Secret Santa went above and beyond.  Here's a list of all she did for me... thanks, Sue!!!

Day 1:  Diet Mountain Dew in a Hawkeye coozie (no idea if that's spelled correctly)
Day 2:  2 pairs of Christmas socks
Day 3: pink & green argyle post-it notes
Day 4: a big package of my favorite multi-colored felt tipped pens
Day 5: the Kristin Chenowith Christmas CD

My big gift was 2 more Christmas CD's... Harry Connick, Jr. and Yo-Yo Ma!  Sue went waaaayyy overboard, but every gift was so thoughtful.  She was great.  

Hope you all have some magical Christmas surprises in the next week!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I discovered a great board game this year. It's called Blokus, and it uses Tetris-style pieces of varying colors. Up to four people (or 4 teams) can play at a time. Players start building from their corner, and those pieces can only touch each other by the corners... they cannot share a side. The object is to get all of your pieces on the board while blocking opponents' pieces in the process. It's totally fun. I got Blokus for my classroom this year with my special requisitions money, and my students love it. We put it up on the Elmo projector, so the game board is projected screen-size, and they play against each other in teams.

Recently, when I needed a replacement green piece (unfortunately, they have a lot of pieces, and middle school kids aren't always the most careful about checking the floor and cleaning up carefully), I went to the Blokus website. They have online games for free, and they have several variations of the game too. I'm currently addicted to the 3-D version. If you're looking for a gift for kids or for a family, you can't beat board games, in my opinion, and Blokus is a great one!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Child for Warmth and a Baker for Bread and a Prince for... Whatever...

As I'm getting ready to wrap up my last weekend as Eleanor of Aquitaine, I've been reflecting on some of my favorite roles. Every part is different, and I really do love most of them. Even when I'm thinking that Eleanor is my favorite part in a straight play, I feel a pang of loyalty to Julia Gibbs, my part in Our Town.  They are two very different women.  I guess they bring out two very different parts of me.  When it comes to musicals, it's still hard to beat when I played the Baker's Wife in Into the Woods.  I loved that part so much.  Here is Joanna Gleason as the Baker's Wife.  She won a Tony for this role.  I'm nowhere close to the genius of Joanna Gleason, but I did love playing that part.  Enjoy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Michael Ball. Sigh.

I have few regrets in life. I don't believe in them. But here is one. In the summer of 1989, when I was in London, I was so obsessed with seeing Phantom of the Opera that I didn't want to give any other show a thought. When I saw the huge marquis for Aspects of Love, I wasn't interested at all. I loved Phantom, but I just had no way of knowing about all that is Michael Ball. About a year later, when I got the soundtrack for Aspects, I fell in love with it (I think I'm one of the 10 people on earth), especially the song "Love Changes Everything." There's just something about the way Michael Ball sings. I normally don't even like a voice that has a huge vibrato, but he sings with such passion. It's like I feel what he's feeling. And on top of all of that, he has killer dimples. I'm obsessed. Why didn't I go see that show????

Here's a clip of him singing one of my favorite Sondheim songs, "Losing My Mind." I sang this song in Celebrate Sondheim! If only I could have sung it like this...

Maybe there's a reason I didn't go see Aspects of Love. Maybe I wouldn't have left London. Maybe he would have seen me in the audience, and it would have been love at first sight. We would have eloped and lived happily ever after. Or, I would have been put in jail for stalking. That's probably more likely.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Night Musings

Audition Time:  Tomorrow and Wednesday after school, I'm having auditions for the middle school production.  Let the craziness begin.

Salt Truck:  The salt truck just whizzed past my house.  We've had about 1/2" of sleet, but with the crews out this early, we probably won't miss any school.  The glutton in me was hoping for a late start.  We're supposed to get nailed with more snow on Tuesday.  We'll see what that does for the school schedule.

Sing-a-Long Sound of Music:  Tuesday afternoon (weather permitting) will be the 4th (I think...) annual Sing-a-Long Sound of Music party for Drama Club.  We watch The Sound of Music, we eat loads of sugar, and we dress in costume... the more creative the better.  Last year, I decorated a pair of sunglasses with some pretty cutouts, and I went as "snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes."  One of my favorite costumes in the past was three girls wiggling under a huge green blanket.  They were "the hills are alive."  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate with us so we won't have to cancel this tradition.

One More Weekend:  I'm trying not to dwell, but I only have two performances left as Eleanor of Aquitaine.  boo hoo

Travel Plans:  My plans were finalized today to visit my California cousins after Christmas.  I can't wait to see them all.  I'm really looking forward to visiting the ranch again and spending time with Kelly, Steve, Cameron, Kate, and Claire.

Well, enough musing for now.  Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thinking of you, Grandma

1 year ago, my grandma passed away.  It was a crazy, icy weekend.  It was also the Gala opening of the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, and I was performing.  I had spent many nights in the two weeks previous to her death on a spare bed in her room at Parkview Care Center.  We knew it wouldn't be long, and I didn't want her to be alone.  My Uncle Dave came, and he and I switched off, making sure someone was always there.  

I think I had four performances that weekend, and Uncle Dave suggested I sleep in my own bed, which was probably a good idea.  But after the show that night, I went out to see Grandma.  It was late, maybe 11:00 or so.  She'd been in and out for several days, but that night she was awake and clear.  Uncle Dave slept in the chair by her bed, and I leaned down and talked to her.  I held her hand and told her about the show and asked her how she was feeling.  Even then, she was never one to complain.  I didn't stay long because I wanted her to rest, but I leaned down and kissed her forehead and told her I loved her.  She looked me right in the eye and said, "I love you too."  I went home and went to bed.  I got the call a couple hours later that she'd slipped away quietly in her sleep.  It was hard to perform the next day, but I knew she wouldn't have wanted me to miss it.  If I can make it through that, I can make it through anything.  

I miss her a lot today.  We're having a day off school due to icy weather, and if she were still at Sunnybrook, I'd pick up Subway or something for us and surprise her, and we'd watch Wheel of Fortune or a basketball game.  I put up some of her Christmas decorations this year.  I'm glad I have them, but it makes me sad too.  I miss her.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Three Weeks in a Row & The Radio

For anyone who reads my blog who might also be thinking about seeing The Lion in Winter:  We've had a schedule adjustment.  We'll be playing Saturday, 12/6 (8:00), and Sunday, 12/7 (2:00) as scheduled.  Luckily, the theatre became available, and we'll be playing next weekend as well.  There will be shows on Friday, 12/12 (8:00), and Saturday, 12/13 (8:00).  No Sunday matinee that weekend.  If there is enough interest next weekend, there is a possibility of holding over one more weekend, but that will depend on demand.  

Last night, Diana and Therese came to see the show, and I think they really loved it.  Diana was crying when they came backstage, Therese hugged and hugged me.  They've asked me to come on their radio show Tuesday morning to talk about the show, so if you're close enough, tune into 100.1 fm on Tuesday morning!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More Pics from The Lion in Winter

I pretty much love every show I'm in, but there's something about this one. Maybe it's because I haven't done a straight play in so long. Maybe it's because I've had to work so hard with it. Maybe it's because I really feel like I know Eleanor. I don't know what it is, but this one is really sticking with me. We have a pickup rehearsal tonight, and I can hardly wait to get there. I've been a little lost this week without Eleanor. Weird, huh? Anyway, enjoy some more pics from the show... we definitely have two more weekends, and maybe three. If you're in the Fairfield area, and you feel like spending two hours with one of the most dysfunctional families ever portrayed, drop on in for some fun!

"Henry's bed is Henry's province.  He can people it with sheep for all I care, which, on occasion, he has done."  Poor Alais.

I love this one.  I've just been screaming like a sociopath at Henry, and when he storms out, I say, "Well, what family doesn't have its little ups and downs?"

Eleanor torments Henry... again.

"You're good.  First class, Geoff.  You'd sell John to me, or me to John, or... you can tell me... have you found some way to sell everyone to everybody?"

"I've born six girls, five boys, and thirty-one connubial years of you.  How am I possible?"

"Dear, dear.  Whatever shall we do with Mother?"

The boys... Geoffrey, John, and Richard.

"I know you, Henry.  I know every twist and bend you've got, and I'll be waiting around each corner for you."  

"King Henry had no sons!"

Richard comes for a visit with Mummy Dearest.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I'm as Bad as the Kids! :)

I have to admit, when I heard the weather forecast today, a tiny little voice in my head thought, "Maybe we'll have an early-out." The adult part of my brain quickly shut down that thought. Nah. The forecast is for 2-5 inches of snow, and we'll probably be the 2.

I got to school and pulled up the weather closings page, just in case. I checked it from time to time. Nothing. Oh well.

Then, the magical e-mail came during my 5th hour class. Early dismissal at 1:30!!!! Have there ever been sweeter words to students or teachers than "early dismissal?" The best thing about an early dismissal is that it doesn't have to be made up at the end of the year.

Now, I'm typing this blog, but when my students get back from lunch, I'll be enjoying that last 20 minutes of the school day as much as they are. Last night at the store, I bought the fixin's for my mom's chili. I was just hungry for it. When I got home, though, I was too tired to fix it. But, now everything has changed. I'll go home at 1:30 and first snuggle down for a nap with the dog. Then, I'll get up and fix my mom's chili and be all snowed in while I eat it in front of the Christmas tree. It just doesn't get any better than that. I still haven't decided if I'm going to cancel choir because we sing Sunday, and we really need the rehearsal with Christmas coming up. I guess I can cross that bridge in a couple of hours though. For now I'm just going to do my early-out happy dance, right along with the kids.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Atari 2600

When Matt & I were little, we had a Pong game, but I don't remember being too interested in it. Our real love of video games began with Atari 2600. We got it when we lived in Iowa City, so it had to be somewhere between the summer of 1980 and December of 1982. Here are some of my favorite games.

Circus... it was especially entertaining when the guys would splat on the ground. ;)

Pitfall... I always went to the left instead of the right... I thought it was easier to roll with the barrels than to have to jump them every single time.

Missile Command... The sound got on my nerves, so I'd turn the TV volume way down. I don't think we even had a remote then to "mute." Ah, the old days.

Burger Time... Too bad the sound doesn't play in this clip. I loved the music. Aren't the graphics wretched in this game? Oh well, it was fun! :)

And, of course, Pac-Man. I remember we bought this game at Sycamore Mall. Matt and I were so freaking excited. I think we got it as some kind of reward for something... who knows... we probably didn't beat each other to pulps for five days or something. Matt was a biter, and I was a pincher. It did not make a good combination, but I digress...

Blessings for Today

1. SNOW!!! We have a couple inches on the ground, and it is gorgeous, sticking to all the trees. Now, I know by March, I'll be ready to see it go. But for now, I love, Love, LOVE it!!!

2. I finally chose a show for this year. The FMS show for 2009 will be "100 Years of Broadway." I have wanted to do a revue for awhile now, and I think this is the year. The music looks like it has good potential for making it my own. I hope to have soloists and big group numbers, with some dialogue/narration in between. Now, things will really start to speed up. I'll have auditions week after next, and rehearsals will get rolling after the holiday break.

3. Sleep. Suzanne talked me out of going back to school last night after dinner with the Kurths. I went home, relaxed, and went to bed early (well, early for me). I'll be here at school late tonight doing midterms, but I feel refreshed today. Nice feeling for a Monday after the long break.

4. Show high. I'm still riding the opening weekend high. I can't wait to be Eleanor again this weekend. Hurry up, Friday!!!

5. My safety. I've been thinking so much about the terrorism in India. My heart goes out to all of those people affected. I'm thankful that terrorism hasn't directly impacted my life, and I pray for peace in the world.
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