Greatness

Re Re Who’s Who The Terrible Two’s

Part 2 of 2

Look who’s entered the terrible two’s!

We had our first rehearsal, and three subsequent practices, for Twelfth Night (our not-so Shakespearean musical). For the veterans this could very well be their twentieth show, for me, it’s Mama takes the stage, take two. In other words, I’ve reached the terrible twos with this whole acting, singing dancing thing.

This is the practice where we go around the room and give a fun fact about ourselves. And being that I’m always wittier when I can hide behind a piece of paper, I’m not so comfortable with delivery, I had some preparing to do. Okay, a lot.

And dare you ask why am I preparing for an impromptu one-minute fact about myself? You’ll have to read on to understand that this wasn’t going to come eloquently unless I thought it through. Not to mention, the last time I had an experience this awkward, I had to ask a guy to the prom, well, actually, I had my friends ask for me so I wouldn’t have to feel that ridiculous. So let’s just say, if I had asked a guy that I knew to the prom, it would have been just as scary.

In fact, I was up several nights in advance. I didn’t even tell Alex or the kids about this. It was embarrassing enough. No one else in the cast was being so ridiculous. (And aren’t I still playing the fool to be admitting to it now? But this is Shakespeare, after all) In fact, their fun fact could be what they had for breakfast that morning, and especially if they were a lead, everyone would laugh anyway. Ensemble has it harder, because let’s face it, there are so many of us and we aren’t exactly a walking comedy skit. (Ok, I do like to entertain with a story or two).

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t judged by our fun facts and everyone forgets them anyway. It’s three practices later and I can’t remember much of what was said that day. Luckily I have my daughter who makes me write this stuff down.

We heard how we are going to modernize the play. Bring in members of our community. For instance, the Illyrian bar will be named after the local watering hole and we will don paraphernalia from the local sports teams.

We went around the circle so everyone could have their spotlight. As I remembered perfectly from last year, there were the two camps: those who could truly skim the fat off the surface and say the latest witty thing that came to mind and those of us, like me, who had to rehearse, or should have rehearsed, what we were going to say up until our turn. (And then the aftermath, when we’re plagued with the replay hoping we sounded okay).

It’s just how it goes. But I was ready. I listened. Some gave recaps of all the fun facts they’d given over the years (they must have prepared, too) and those who hadn’t rehearsed, but secretly wished they had, and took the bandaid off quickly with a “my fun fact is (blank).” Get the spotlight off of me NOW! (This group also secretly wanted a chair to be missing so they could get out of playing Musical Chairs when they were kids).

And it was my turn. But before you can read on, this is really part two of a two part series and it would be wise if you read what I revealed in about myself in last week’s post about my blush with greatness in order to get me here. http://re-whos-who-aka-the-incognito-snowman. Whether you read it or you’re brave enough to read on, please understand, these words were not easy for me to say.

What I said, seemed to morph into what I wanted to say and now I can’t tell the difference between the two of them anyway. But I’ve belabored the telling of this long enough. So whether I said it out loud or in my head, this is how I’m going to recap this now:

“I’m Stephanie Ortiz (when you forget to say your in ensemble, that’s okay, everyone assumes since Deb didn’t ask me to clarify that, that’s who I am anyway). This is middle-aged Mama takes the stage take two. Take one was last year and I practically crawled on that stage, but I did it with the support of my daughters, who forced me to go through with it, and my stage husband (I looked over at Bill). I can’t act, I can’t sing, I can’t dance, but I did it anyway/. I’ve always watched greatness. I watched my Dad coach the Philadelphia 76ers to a world championship, and now this was my championship and I did it with you. So I’m a glutton for punishment and now I’m back again. And fun fact: I have some sports paraphernalia for you, Deb!”

Later my youngest said, Mommy, you had so many fun facts, why’d you have to give one more?” So there you have it, the only response that really mattered.

So why’d I do it? It had been haunting me all those years, always making me scared of the spotlight that would see right through me and show me up for who I really was, gasp, I was Mr. Cellophane. But that’s the wrong play, come back to Twelfth Night and there’s Malvoleo struggling with the very same concept: “Some are born great, some have greatness thrust upon them. “

I’m proud of all my Dad’s greatness, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t process it. I was only 13 and I was just trying to figure out who I was.

Maybe you could call it my journey of overcoming greatness: how I sat and watched greatness, thinking it was a one-man show only to finally realize you can’t open the door to your own greatness sitting in the audience. So there’s a moral to this story: the first rule of greatness is you can’t do it alone.

So that reminds me, I’ve just now entered the terrible two’s with this theater thing. Give this Mama just a little bit of a stage, have her turn 50 and just see what happens.

This week’s muse: how have you stared greatness in the face and/or how might you act out your terrible twos?

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Greatness

Re: Who's Who aka The Incognito Snowman

Part 1 of 2

The Incognito Snowman

I have a confession to make, I’m a self-proclaimed nobody. Hence the picture of the incognito snowman. Okay, he might not be the best example, but he’s really cute.

And I have another confession to make. I come up with lots of ideas/stories, and especially when they are great and are meant for somebody else, I feel shamed if I don’t share them.

So that leaves a comedy skit in the making or a good blog post: a nobody with an idea reaching out to a somebody who is famous. However to protect the privacy of my famous person I’m not going to divulge the name and will just refer to who’s who as Incognito Snowman (I got to make sense of my picture somehow).

To dive into my big embarrassing confession a bit more, I’ve always found security in obscurity. (Don’t you just love a rhyme for no reason)? As long as I stayed incognito, I felt safe. My rhyming sister, Emily Dickinson, wrote a poem about us, “I’m nobody who are you? Are you nobody too?” Oh, how I loved that she got me.

But that’s absurd, right? This calls for drastic measures. I broke down the giant and made him take baby steps. Here’s the dumbified results, just to make this easier for me, and for you, so you can play along, too.

Step 1: Walk the dog and come up with an idea for let’s just say a great television show. You know the lightbulb moment that I’m not ashamed to admit isn’t for me. A distinct person came to mind, the very person who could pull it off: none other than Incognito Snowman!

Step 2: Share your idea. But how? Keep this bit of advice handy: find the avenue that the least amount of people would use to contact that person. And if you’re still scratching your head, the answer is email. What a duh moment! Of course, I knew that because I was armed by those words.

Step 3: Decide how to contact Incognito Snowman. Look up said person and realize there are five points of contact via email. It appears a lot of other people have intentions to reach my famous person, ahem. Since there’s no direct email, I choose the writer.

Step 4: Write the email. Another duh moment, but we’re taking baby steps with this, just in case in the heat of the excitement you forget who you are (because trust me you will). This is not a pitch. It’s not professional. It’s just a friend (who you don’t know). I didn’t start off with “hey”, I did reserve some formalities. But do what I say not what I did: make a copy of what you sent.

Step 5: Forget about it. And, of course, I did. (That’s why you made a copy so you could refer back to it when you couldn’t remember you even wrote the email). I wasn’t expecting anything in return. In fact, if I actually thought I’d get a response I wouldn’t have reached out to Incognito Snowman in the first place. (That’s how obscure I hoped to remain).

Step 6: Receive a response email and open it. Yes, at this point, you’re allowed to skim, reread, savor, memorize whatever you want, and yes, you can even start to quote it in your casual conversations with your immediate family members only, who are all in on it. But don’t jump ahead to the complete FREAK OUT just yet. First, proceed with caution and take my daughter’s advice, “Don’t tell anyone or you’ll jinx it.” For the record, she now claims she never said that. Good thing that’s what I heard her say because that’s what I did. Now read the email, trust me, what you’ve done up until this point was not reading. Just process the facts.

Hello Stephanie, 

I am the public relations assistant to Incognito Snowman. We received your email and would like to send you a mailed response. If you would be so kind as to provide me with a personal address or PO Box, we would be happy to do so. 

We are most grateful for your patience and look forward to hearing from you soon!

Kind Regards,

Assistant

Step 7: Respond. I know. You didn’t really need these steps up until this moment. Now you are so shocked you can’t make even the simplest decision. I didn’t want to sound too excited (over what anyway?) or too desperate (what can I get out of this?) or too ungracious (maybe I should just thank the assistant and wish her Happy New Year?). I texted Alex and asked “Should I thank her or wish her Happy New Year?” And, luckily he replied back, “yes to both.”

Step 8: Click Away Negative Thoughts. Most recently I’ve been clicking away my negative thoughts. Remember? https://stephanieortiz.com/2019/12/10/click-away-negative-thoughts/ But some negative thoughts are persistent; I click them away, and they are still there! So get defensive, they creep in like leaches now that you hit “send”. This could be a scam. CLICK. It’s probably just a survey asking how they did. CLICK. Maybe a telemarketer hacked Incognito Snowman’s computer and stole my email. Good thing I covered that and gave Alex’s work address instead of my home address. I showed them. Until my oldest pointed out, “If you’re so worried about this being a scam, don’t you think they would be too?” Why does she have to be so smart when I’m being such a recovering nobody? How many duh moments can there be? The steps, I repeat, remember the steps.

Step 9: Congratulations, you’ve reached the FREAK OUT step! Dream it up! Let it grow. Make it as big as you dare it to be. It’s only in your mind anyway, right? And when you have to share what’s bouncing around like a pinball machine before you burst, share it carefully. Don’t advertise this. You were just feeling like a nobody when we started step 1 (and you don’t need anyone accidentally reminding you of that) so revel in this greatness. When was the last time you dared dream so big?

You get the picture?

Step 10: Wait, and I mean wait for the post man to come, every day, the old-fashioned way. Yes, there’s time here. Lots of time. In fact so much time that I’m reminded of Fiona and the waiting…the waiting…the waiting…

Waiting doesn’t feel like a step, but don’t be fooled. It knocks the sense into you. This is when I collected myself and ultimately opened to the truth. Alex helped too as he had the wherewithal to locate a message board. Fans posted that they received letters, gasp, in the mail. There were two camps: those who sent a photo and got it returned with a signature and those that wrote fan mail and received a response written in block letters thanking them for their support.

That was the buzz kill. That good for nothing reality check. I’m just a, gulp, fan. And while I was facing the truth I had to consider a few more things. Remember all those giddy, grandiose dreams that were too big to even tell anyone in the freak out stage? They weren’t real. And for all those years of playing a nobody alongside Emily Dickinson, I had to finally admit that truth, too; she’s dead, long gone. Imagine that, my partner in anonymoty was a famous dead person.

But somehow these realizations didn’t send me crawling back to my blanket of obscurity as they once would have, and they have made the waiting a bit more doable. There’s still questions, but now they’re just more practical, grounded and shareable: am I eligible for an autographed photo? Has my idea been lumped into the “thank you for your support” pile? Let’s throw in that possibility of a survey–it would be a fun twist.

Now that I’ve validated myself, I don’t need to hope anymore that my letter from Incognito Snowman will fulfill me. I just had to come out of hiding and find myself again. Take one step at a time.

I’m still waiting. If I hear anything, you’ll be the first to know. But, hey, I did hear it’s supposed to snow on Saturday. to Want to build a snowman? Though the name Incognito Snowman is taken, I have a good feeling about this; whatever name we give him, ours will be just as great (wink)!

A Muse 4U: Did you ever have an encounter with a Who’s Who that made you forget who you were? And perhaps, that was just the nudge you needed…

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Touched By An Angel: What Small Change Can Do

It’s only $4, or is it?

I asked my family if this New Year’s Day they’d be up for a challenge: to give a dollar to someone we don’t know.

We had planned to go to the city so each of us could give our dollar maybe to someone who was homeless. (It seemed to make the most sense). But my youngest had a fever and Alex was feeling like he was coming down with something so that wasn’t possible.

It was getting late and even though the sun had gone down on New Year’s Day, our challenge seemed to be turning into, well, a challenge.

Alex agreed to drive and I would give our combined $4 to whoever was behind the register at the convenience store down the street.

We were a little nervous—this isn’t typical for us. We wondered what would he think? Would he be confused by our gesture and question why so little?” Maybe we should be giving more, but that’s all we had on us, so it would have to do.

But then I remembered, “Just think about how excited you are when you find even a quarter. I think he’ll be happy.”

The closer we got to the store, I decided I’d go in alone so we didn’t overwhelm the person and I’d definitely give it to the worker behind the counter. There are so many stories about the person buying coffee, etc. for the guy in line. And those are beautiful gestures, too, and are just as special. But what about the guy who has to work there?

This was our way to change it up, well, $4 up.

So I prayed that the person working there would be the right person. The person that $4 would mean something to…For some reason that mattered to me.

But there was still the biggest question, what would I say? I pushed that thought away when I saw my stranger through the doors: the man behind the counter. He was checking out the only customer in the store. So I let them finish up their transaction and then entered.

The worker kindly said to the customer, “Happy New Year.” I knew he was the one.

The doors jingled and the customer left calling to mind that scene in the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. Remember that famous quote? “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” Trust me, no angel was getting any wings here, but I grinned at the thought anyway.

He turned to me and asked, “What can I do for you?” He smiled back, it was faint, maybe it had been a long day, but he didn’t show it. He gave his full attention to me and what I might need.

I handed him the money and he took it and waited patiently for my answer. Cigarettes? Isn’t that what he keeps behind the counter? I had to explain, and quickly, as this was rather unusual. I said, “This is for you.“ And I found the words to say, his words, in fact, “Happy New Year!”

He took it, but he kept his hand outstretched, holding the money gingerly so I could change my mind and take it back. Funny that play on words change my mind. Or clearly this was a prank. But I didn’t move. I asked for nothing.

I nodded my head yes and said, “It’s for you.”

He looked at me so deeply he could have even had tears in his eyes, but he didn’t.

He asked, “But why?”

I said, “Just because.” And the pause we shared between us was the gift I would carry away with me. I smiled and then I said, “Happy New Year!”

And he looked at me with his eyes so deep with love or gratitude or awe or disbelief or maybe all of the above. The power in his eyes was so great you would have thought an angel had just come into the room. But that angel already was with us, remember the bells?

He never even looked to see how much money it was. In fact, it wasn’t even money anymore. In his eyes, and hopefully reflected in my own, was the deeper knowledge that what we had exchanged was far greater.

I left and got back in the car. It felt like a get-away car, Alex and I both felt so flustered. Alex was awkwardly trying to get out in the wrong direction and then righted himself and started backing up all while the man stood at the door and stared after us. I waved a couple of times but he didn’t wave back. He just looked.

Alex finally righted the car and was getting ready to drive on so he rolled down the window as the man opened the store door and we heard the bells jingle. Alex was a bit touched too and he accidentally yelled out “Merry Christmas” and then he corrected himself and said “I mean Happy New Year!”

And then the man found his voice again and said, “Happy New Year.”

But there was a quiet way about him. There was that look on his face the way your parents would look at you when they had just waved you goodbye and you were leaving. It was a moment so sacred that words don’t describe it. Maybe we all had been truly touched by that angel.

When we got home, my oldest asked me to write it down (she’s always badgering me to write down my stories while they’re still fresh). She wanted me to make it my next blog post, but I told her I wouldn’t be able to, “It was too sacred of a moment”.

So she said, “Then at least write it down before you forget.”

So I wrote it down, and then, as only my daughter knows best, once written, how could I not share? There’s no way I can break the sacredness that had transpired that night. It happened, I would only be so lucky to be able to find the words to explain it.

The story started off and it was small change for me too. But when those bells jingled, the story took on a whole new dimension. We were all touched by that angel.

Something to muse about. Did you ever have that moment where small change multiplied to make such a big difference in the life of a stranger?

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Dads With Daughters, Little Women Trumps Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Drawing courtesy of my daughter

It’s 2020, it’s all about reflections or resolutions. And what we deal with personally is just magnified at the movies. So here it goes.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the ultimate reflection movie as it’s the culmination of the series while “Little Women” is all about Jo’s resolution to get her voice heard.

But Dads, you seem to be more into reflections these days. The dark side is winning out.

The ball dropped Tuesday and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” took the number one spot over “Little Women”. Check it out from Brent Lang in Variety, he’ll tell you more about it at http://‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Tops New Year’s Eve Box Office.

If we stripped away the box office figures and the fact that we are comparing the end of a series with a one and done movie, let’s face it, the soft side outranks the dark side, especially if you’re a Dad with girl(s). You have an inherent soft side.

Since I’m one for debate, I knew a war was brewing even before I read Kristy Eldrege in The New York Times write that men are receiving “Little Women” poorly. http://Men Are Dismissing ‘Little Women.’ What a Surprise. It sparked 1,390 comments last time I checked, so a lot of people are up for debating this. But fathers, have you made your choice?

Before you do, let’s debunk that big looming concern that “Little Women” is for chicks. Of course it is, but you’ve got chick(s) in the house, right?

Star Wars may have taught you all you needed to know about the dark force, but did it do anything to prepare you for the light force in your life–your daughter(s)?

And in harmony with the chick flick stereotype, you’re probably ready to stand by the Resistance and say that “Star Wars” is action-packed. Yes, I never had a chance to breath there was so much action. But more actually happens in “Little Women” that will keep you riveted and moved than in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”.

Frankly, if you’ve seen one “Star Wars” in the series, you’ve already (cough) seen this one, too.

But what if you live, breath and quote the force? You know who you are, when May 4th rolls around you’re texting your buddies saying, “May the fourth be with you”.

You know what’s in your heart: “Star Wars” connects you to your manliness. I don’t have to break your illision, but I’m going to anyway.

The “Star Wars” genre is considered a space opera (Things can’t get more girly than that!).

You’re warming up to the idea, but then, you never read the book. Why would you have? For the record, I read it and didn’t even like it. The book didn’t stop me from appreciating the movie, and neither should it matter to you.

And if you’re still not convinced? Get over yourself, these movies aren’t as different as you have pegged them to be.

Here are the top reasons if you liked “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” you will like “Little Women”. SPOILER ALERT if you read past this point (not that it matters, as everyone knows what happens in both movies anyway. But it’s fun to say, anyhow).

1.) Both are set in other worlds. You’ll still be taken away, it might not be to “A Galaxy Far, Far Away” but it will be to the 1860s. (And for millennials, that’s a long, long time ago).

2.) The accents in either movie will fool you. In “Star Wars”, Rey keeps her English accent. She remains true to her earthly heritage, but in outer space, really? No one else came from her “British” planet. But in “Little Women”, the foreign actresses (two British, an Irish, and an Australian) have American accents so real you could watch the entire movie just trying to catch them with the wrong accent.

3.) It’s all fun/war and games until somebody gets hurt/dies. Yes, the heroine in both movies has a deep seated love that must die. For “Little Women” it’s Beth and for the “Star Wars” finale, it’s Ben. (Funny how both those names start with “Be”).

If I haven’t won you over by now, there’s no hope left. (cute, right?) You’ve chosen the dark side, and I can’t help persuade you to be a softee, not even for your daughter(s).

Let’s just wait for the spoof where the chicks won’t have to trump the guys or vice versa. Just imagine the world it could be: The Wars of The Little Star Women.

And if the guy/chick flick war rages on in your household, go see “Frozen II”, at least the kids seem to like it.

Dads, if you weren’t so busy reflecting on “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” being the end of the series, and you could only pick one of these movies to see, which one would it be?

And Moms, have your husbands resolved themselves, yet, to see “Little Women”?

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In Hot Pursuit Of…

Making the Merry in Christmas

Every Christmas season I find myself in hot pursuit of something. It used to be the latest doll that the girls had to have. We’ve moved beyond that stage, (I could very well start feeling sorry for myself), as a new age has definitely begun. Luckily, I can still make sure Christmas is merry as this year I found myself in hot pursuit of something much bigger; and this time, if it wasn’t a truck, well, two trucks, actually (and we’re not talking toy trucks here).

But I always want to jump ahead, so let’s take it from the beginning. I was just getting out of a parking spot with my oldest in the car with me. It was ridiculously crowded. It seemed like I was going to be stuck in my tight spot forever. “If only we could get out of here.” I still had to pick up my other daughter from school and cars were blocking me from every angle.

A man, who had pulled in and just wanted to park, saw a woman in a similar predicament so he left his car in the middle of the parking lot and got out of his car to help her leave. I just stayed in my spot not wanting to draw attention to the fact I was stuck too. (I mean, helpless woman x2. How embarrassing). But there I was, pretty stuck myself.

So I told my daughter to get out of the car to direct me. Only, it was not working so I got her back in the car and decided to wait it out. Just chalk it up to a holiday jam.

Meanwhile, the dear man got back in his car and saw I was stranded too so he came over to help me out. It was such a small gesture on his part, but the gratitude I felt was enormous.

Free to drive, I turned to get on the road. I had just said, “That was so incredibly nice of that man” and I got stopped behind a red car, who was behind another car. We were all waiting out the red light. In the left-hand lane was a huge truck. It was misplaced, like the island of the misfit toys, as it was too tight of a curve and the truck was too unyielding, but the truck tried to inch up in line anyway. And the truck, the size of my gratitude for that man who helped me get out of my own jam, was about to, oh no, it was all in super slow motion as the truck squeezed, but there wasn’t enough room, and then it did anyway. It side-swiped the tail end of the tiny car and deposited the little car right into the backside of another car. There was no way of telling damage had been done from my viewpoint, but apparently, the truck driver couldn’t see either. The truck drove away.

All the other cars drove ahead to make the light that had turned green except the little car and the red car that stayed behind as witness.

It was one of those moments where your heart sinks for the little guy. The guy was just sitting in his car, helpless and unnoticed. I wanted to yell out to the big truck, “Look what you did!” And I hadn’t even had the chance to process what had just happened when I realized I could do something.

I could drive after the truck and get the license number. It felt like my mind was lagging behind. There was traditional wisdom to overcome. “You stay at the scene of the accident,” that little voice inside of me said. But, finally, an even bigger voice boomed back. “Unless, of course, you need to go get that license plate number.”

Time wasn’t really operating in slow motion like I thought it was. We we were off! My daughter caught the excitement of it on video. Who knew that my heart would be racing before the chase had begun? I wanted to get all the details right. I didn’t want to run the red light, but that light took forever. The truck was getting away.

It finally turned green, after a good 10 minutes of waiting, I’m almost positive of it. And then the road and the cars that I had to pass seemed like a video game–that driving game we played as kids. It was the size of a really thick mini iPad. It had a little steering wheel on the bottom left corner that you could steer to weave in and out of traffic. If you hit a car a big red X would splash across the screen along with the error noise. You know, the crash and burn. (And then it broke, which was even better because we could hit the cars and it wouldn’t alert anyone that we had made a mistake. We could drive right over them.

But here the driving game came to life before me. There was no room for mistakes. If not for me, for my daughter. My daughter was in the car so I had to be safe. But we had the hot pursuit before us.

My heart pounded as I surveyed the scene: the road, the cars, the two lanes, not doing anything to endanger my daughter (ahem, getting the big X across the screen, even if I could just plow right through). But we spotted the truck. Thank goodness, there was another red light ahead, and this time it was a blessing. The two lanes merged into three. I saw the opportunity to bypass all the cars in front of me if I could just pull up in the far left lane. And there! My daughter was able to videotape all the way up to the final moment when we got the license plate number. She captured the truck on camera.

All that was left of my hot pursuit was that happy moment. My heartbeat with joy that I was able to pay it forward to the kind gentleman who helped me in the parking lot.

But I won’t end on this note. I asserted that at Christmas I’m always in hot pursuit of something and this Christmas was no different. So let’s fast forward from this moment to Christmas Eve when we were in hot pursuit of another truck, x2.

I’m asking you to suspend your disbelief here, but stick with me. I found myself in hot pursuit yet again come Christmas Eve, when we chased after Santa on the firetruck.

There was that same level of anticipation. We heard the sirens (and knew from years prior) that meant that he was getting closer. We had to leave the house to catch Santa in fear of missing him. Even though he goes to all the neighborhoods in our town, there’s something special about seeing him on our street. We plan everything around that moment when he appears on the firetruck.

The sirens start. There are two trucks. The smaller one makes the announcement and then the main firetruck appears in all it’s lit up glory. It makes the turn and the screaming starts. It’s the teenagers, or maybe it’s us, I don’t know. This time, I get to videotape the hot pursuit.

And now would be the opportune time to show you that video of Santa coming to town on the firetruck, however, I am still waiting for YouTube to process my video (or else my computer has frozen). Whenever it does I’ll be sure to update the post.

It’s not all about the chase and tracking down that truck two times over. Or maybe it is.

‘Tis the season for excitement in being present for one another. May your hot pursuits in 2020 be just as merry and bright as ours were in 2019!

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Auditioning for the Bard Arse Club

A Laughtear Break

I auditioned for our local community theater’s new musical, Twelfth Night. If ever you need a moment filled with laughtear, get on a stage, especially if you haven’t been on one before. Before I can get to auditions, let’s talk terminology. And as you will soon find out, laughtear is not a mispelling for laughter.

When the girls were young, we made up all kinds of new words as we marveled at all the ways they managed to do two things at the same time. For example, a fart and a burp was a furt.

But that led to other cool combinations like a fart and a cough. That was a fough.

It was so much fun why not just call a sneeze and a cough a snough?

So now you get the game? And there was that cute thing when they’d have one sock on and one sock off. The missing sock! Now if only we were creative enough to put a name to that. But, looking back, we could have just asked their non-respsonsive selves, “wha’d you do with your ock?”

Just because those days are long gone, when we multitask now it’s usually not connected to our body parts, unless, we just so happen to laugh until the tears come. Now that’s laughtear!

And we all need laughtear, it’s just how do we get some of that in our life?

So that’s where I come into the picture. I willingly sacrifice myself (and all that’s left of the respect people once might have had for me) for a good laugh. After all, I am middle-aged Mama leaping to the stage, take two. (Take one happened last November when I auditioned for Mamma Mia! with the girls for my very first stint with community theater). I’ve learned enough to be deadly with this axiom…if you want some more laughtear in your life, get on a stage. Any stage will do.

My platform just happens to be Jenkintown Music Theater where we have a dynamite director, Deb Schrager, my girls follow her where ever she directs, and the group at JMT is kind enough to take me.

But if only it were that simple. I do have to audition. And the girls make me go in there alone. They won’t do it for me (oh, payback)! Being jester doesn’t come easy to me and it’s not for the faint of heart. Even though I knew better, I tried so hard not to be nervous this time. It mattered so much that I treat this audition the way I would if I had to make dinner. I had prepared. I had played that cd so I knew every song until the girls would get in the car at pick up and say, “Not that again.” (Even though my tween isn’t accustomed to rolling her eyes just yet, she gave me the eye roll, too).

The day of the audition, it was snowing and raining at the same time ( a phenomenon we might call snaining for the sake of this post). But that was just a precursor of what was to come.

In all fairness, I only had to sing two lines. Yes. Two lines, that’s it. How hard could that be? No different than making dinner, I told myself. Plus I knew everybody at the audition. So when I walked down the firing squad, I mean the long table set up in front of the stage, I started to hug people, like the stage manager, Harvey, and Emily, the pianist and then I just gave up. My hellos were already way longer than my estimated stage time was going to be.

I got on stage and showed off my Mamma Mia! boots. The ones I wore to London. They were for old times sake. (Just to remind Deb, in case she had forgotten, that I had been on stage once before). Although she needed no reminding once the music started and I didn’t open my mouth.

How could I? Suddenly there was an introduction. It was the middle of the song! Since when does the middle of a song have a beginning? It was so simple with the cd, it always went like this, “Ladies, Ladies, Ladies.” That was my cue to sing. But without those words, I had nothing but a bunch of notes that I literally never heard before. Oh, how my meal had failed!

But there was always dessert. So Deb started singing for me. And I joined along for those last few words. Until she stopped. I had the sheet music in my hand. All I had to sing was, “Good friends laugh in derision to show you that they care.” So all I could do was hum. But even those notes were off key. I got back on track for the last word. Or did I?

It was all a bad blur. This was an epic fail. Sort of like this picture of my daughter taken right before I took the picture of her crying with her birthday hat on. She was all happy. Entertaining herself. So adorable really…

Until I put the hat on her, and bam, it was all over. The tears came forth as shown in the first picture. Just like me to come and screw everything up…

But, my laughtear moment didn’t come just then. I had to extricate myself (remove the evidence of the spoiled meal) and I did what any comic would do (and trust me I’m not trained in this, I was far from the class clown as a shy kid). I said, “That was horrible.” before I solemnly bowed with the whole arm to stomach and other arm in the air type of a thing. I was so bad, I didn’t even get a do-over.

So this is where it all comes together. I had my laughtear moment with my community theater friends. We had all been telling each other to break a leg at auditions and I came back to inform them that I really did break a leg, both legs, in fact, and I left two casts in the trophy case of the school lobby to prove it.

Everyone was telling me it couldn’t have been that bad, but that set me off to laughing. No, it was that bad. And then that’s when it came out. I said I was starting the bard arse club. So that got me laughing even harder. And then others started sharing their stories (and none of them held a candle to mine), but I wasn’t going to have bragging rights here, I just welcomed them to the club and told them they had rightfully gained admission.

I’m not sure when there was that tipping point where my laughter turned into crying and my crying turned into laughter, but there it was. My laughtear break! Now that was worth the admission price!

So all this begets the question: when was the last time you had that epic laughtear moment?

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Click Away Negative Thoughts

This is my latest fashion statement. Whenever I wear my clicker, someone will comment how cool my ring is. And then the conversation goes like this:

Interested MOS (Man on the Street, leftover from my TV days): What is it?

Me: I use it to count my bad habit.

Interested MOS: What’s your bad habit?

Me: “Negative thoughts. WIth this I can just click them away.”

Interested MOS: “Where can I get one?”

In all fairness I didn’t come up with the idea to track my negative thoughts. It came from David Burns, author of Feeling Good. This is by no means a new book, it was first published in June 1980, but the idea of buying my clicker, well, that came from Amazon.com. So the fashion secret is out!

And, just in case you’re wondering, why not just use worry beads? They’ve been around. The Greeks use them. I dare you. Get you some worry beads and tell me if people stop you in the street wondering where to get them.

If there is any doubt about how special this tracker ring is, I have a story for you. I just lost my clicker. It fell off the strap. (In all fairness I was banging it about trying to get my luggage through the insanely narrow aisle). I had just left the airplane and a woman came running frantically to catch up with me to tell me I lost my ring. I had just enough time to look that indeed I only had the plastic left on my finger when I saw another woman waving my ring in the air, “Here’s your ring. You dropped it.” You would have thought it was a diamond. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I have others (four come in the packet plus a counter bracelet on velcro), though, I would have had to use the white or the black and I really do like my pink one.

But I already knew how special this “ring” was when it went through the washer and dryer and it still came out clicking. Talk about putting it through the “ringer” just to make sure it really is a workable piece of jewelry!

And the best part of it all–it’s fun to have negative thoughts now, just to be able to click them away. Not unlike the Calgon, Take Me Away commerical I have buzzing around my head right now. On that note, let’s end with a bit of nostalgia.

Just imagine if they had clickers back then! She might not have even needed the Calgon bath.

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