What Role Am I?

Will the real role/roll please stand up?

One thing I love about community theater is how it reflects our off stage lives. Whether on stage or off, we all have roles (or rolls depending on how you look at it) that we play and they always leave us wondering who am I?

Take on stage, just this Sunday, I was asked to be a pole. Someone has to simulate the corner of the boxing ring during the fight scene in Twelfth Night, the musical. I was told that we’d be holding pool noodles. How many poles does it take to make the corners of a ring? Well, four, naturally.

So I started thinking about how best to be a pole holding two pool noodles. I could put into practice last year’s bit of advice from an experienced cast member, “Wow them from the neck up”.

So from the neck up, I’ll be a pole that taunts the leads to fight. “What kind of man are you going to be?”

There are so many pole jokes to go around, “at least they didn’t want me to be a pole dancer” or “I’m a pole, but at least I still have my noodles.”

I didn’t say they had to be good jokes but I could go on if you want me to. We have a lot of empty time on our hands at rehearsals to hang out with our cast members and crack bad jokes.

And now that I’m halfway throughly life, I’ve had a lot of other roles. Sometimes I start to question, will the real role please stand up? But let’s back track and take this one role at a time.

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 27, 1973 (3-year-old Stephanie with Mom)

Daughter: Let’s face it, I was a daughter first. Here’s an incredible picture of Mom and me in that first role plucked straight from one of the newspapers buried in the basement. Mom spoke out quite a bit as she wanted people to know her story. It was hard being the wife of a man who loved basketball, while she loved the man behind the game. He’d be at the front door, bringing his duffel bag to the front door to leave for a road trip, and I’d hold onto his leg and cry. It must have broken Mom’s heart to have to see her daughter so upset. Meanwhile, she was publicly struggling to find out who she was. I was trying to figure it out, too. Only I was too young. I didn’t have the capacity to figure it all out, so I looked outside of myself for the answers. For me it translated like this…the teacher made me be a tree in our first grade play, therefore, that must be what I’m cut out to be in life: a tree. So I did what any kid would do, I waited until I got older so I could show that teacher that I could also be a pole.

I seem to like to sit on ledges–here I am with Alex back in, I don’t know, let’s say 2003

Married: I didn’t enter marriage gracefully. It was hard to take on the responsibility, when I much preferred being free and unencumbered. When Alex and I got engaged, I almost threw the engagement ring out the window of the cab. I was angry because Alex had “tracked me down”. I was hanging out after work with my friends at the local bar downstairs and I lost track of time. The bartender stood there holding an old-fashioned telephone in his hand, it wasn’t old fashioned at the time, and he asked, “Is anyone here by the name of Stephanie?” In all fairness, I was hours late to a date that Alex had pre-arranged. It was the most callous, insensitive thing that I ever did because I didn’t get the marriage thing. But over the years, we’ve learned together and we’re beautiful because of it.

Daughter-In-Law: I hear more horror stories of people hating their in-laws. In fact, once at a writing retreat I was prompted to write about my mother-in-law and my story was the only one that was so beautiful I ended up sharing it with my dear Mother-In-Law afterwards. I love my in-laws and am graced and blessed by their love.

Mama: This one didn’t come easy either. I was so scared of giving birth that I tried to hold my oldest in. The very daughter I fought to bring into the world, looked nothing like me. But then there was my second. I didn’t fight her, in fact, we welcomed her wholeheartedly, she was my mini-me, only we didn’t have a name for her. They wouldn’t let us leave the hospital calling her “baby girl Ortiz”. To this day my oldest has a complex because we didn’t have choices of what we would name her. She said her friends all have funny stories, like her sister, that they “might have been” called Sage or Kendall. I told my oldest to use her sisters possible names. Now I know why I was so scared to have kids, I didn’t want to let them go when their time comes to fly. It comes so quickly.

Writer: If you haven’t noticed the pattern here, I’ve been reticent to take on any new role. That’s where community theater helps. Whenever I try to look at myself as a writer and the doubt sets in, I remember last year I got on that stage without any experience at all. So here I am, showing up on my blog, just like I got on that stage, one week at a time.

I’ve played all these roles, and so many more that I haven’t included here, or this could go on way longer than you’re probably willing to read.

When a play is over the girls always handle the aftermath with such grace. I’m the one who can’t get it out of my head. I”m scared to let it go, yes, even if I’m just a pole.

Only, about that pole, just as quickly as I became one, well, I just as quickly lost it. Yes, they asked me to go back to ensemble and they gave the pole, I mean role, to someone else.

At least I can be the pole understudy and I can always joke how I am part pole, and my kids, well, they’re a quarter pole…

You’d think now that I’m older and wiser and I know who I am. Or do we ever really know who we are? We’re always growing, no matter what our age, no matter what role we play. We always look to the roles and the actors around us to glimpse who we really are.

And no matter how I look at it, I have become the person I am today because of these roles. I might not be able to shoot a basketball, but I look just like my Dad. I don’t have a southern accent and southern charm to boot (put Mom in a room and she will come out of there knowing at least three important facts about every person in there), but I can write a story or two. I’ve learned from the best.

I loved Laura Dern’s quote from the Oscars, not just because she played Mom in Little Women, but because of what she said, “Some say you never meet your heroes, I say, if you’re truly blessed you have them as your parents.”

I was equally as blessed. I had a head start in life having great parents to help me begin to answer the question, “who am I?”. I have had great teachers along the way in the form of Alex, my in-laws, my kids, oh, and my first grade teacher who made me be a tree.

I’m grateful for all these meaningful rolls. Yes, I mean rolls, literally, this time. It wasn’t a family meal until Mom accidentally burned them. So even if I have to be a burnt piece of bread, I’ve been a tree and I’ve been part pole so I can take it on.

Even with my writing, when I begin to wonder where it might lead me, I need just apply myself to the role at hand.

Since all the world’s a stage, let’s just take life one role at a time and see where it takes us.

A Muse 4 You: How do you see yourself through the roles that you play?

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Finding A Cow: My Golf Ball Game

The Cow Jumped Over the Club
The Cow Jumped Over the Club

In the beginning of the week, the weather was so gorgeous my golf game was in full swing again. And if you believe I’m actually talking about playing golf, you’d better keep reading.

Before I get to the back story, My game involves looking for graveyard golf balls. It’s my daily ritual to look (I don’t always find).

I was walking Holly along the golf course and was lost in thought about what I’d write about next when I stumbled upon a ball. And there my muse was printed on it (like a fortune cookie, only better) in the form of an insignia of a cow on top of a golf club. The seed to my next story.

So that’s what makes this post about cows. If your wondering how could I possibly do this, you really don’t understand the game very well just yet.

My first instinct when I see a cow that appears to be jumping is to go straight into nursery rhyme mode.

The Cow Jumped Over the Moon: It’s just gibberish, but it brings me back to my daughter’s birth. Our dear friends I’ve known since childhood, sent her a life-size baby cow. It was numbered, dated and named. Isn’t she adorable?

Our family “cowch” jumps over the golf club

At the time, I never looked up anything on the internet about the cow. We weren’t in the babit of doing that like we are today. And do I feel stupid now. Turns out these cows are fashioned off of real cows and they have quite a beautiful story.


Not to mention, I didn’t get the pun of her trademark name “COWCH”, not to be confused with couch. Who knew I had to find a cow golf ball to understand the precious cow we have in our own family?

But Alex’s Dad had a cow story of his own. In keeping with the nursery rhyme theme we have going here, I’ll call this story of how my in-laws met: Papito Jumped Over Bolivia. Papito had gotten a scholarship to study in Texas, which then led him to continue studying in France. That’s where he met Mamita. She thought he was a Texas rancher and that he raised cattle. (Boy was she mistaken when she took that boat-ride with her spouse and young son to move to Bolivia). But I think she was confused because he always wears this hat. Wherever we go, people think he’s a rancher from Texas.

Don’t let the hat fool you, my father-in-law is not from Texas, Bolivia

Those were the cow stories that I knew. There had to be a cow story that I didn’t know burried in one of those newspapers I had unearthed in the basement last week. It was a bit of a challenge to start going through them with this intent, but I never doubted that it couldn’t be done. If you have doubts, you must be the one hitting all those balls in the graveyard.

So I started with the papers Mom had saved in a manilla envelope from Dad’s rookie year with the 76ers when he was the sixth man, which happened to be the year before they won the World Championship. I wasn’t even born yet so it was fun to see where my parents were in that time capsule of 1966.

Anyone used to love Back to the Future, too? I don’t even need the time traveling car to go back in time. I just need to go in the basement.

Where Alex’s Dad had a fictional connection to cattle, turns out my Dad had a real tie to it as he was involved in, drum roll please, a cattle-breeding operation…but it wasn’t his only business venture.

The story of the cow led me to want to know, more importantly, why Dad was a businessman while he was playing professional ball? Was it because of Grandpa’s influence? He wanted Dad to get a real job at IBM after college and play basketball on the side.

Dad explained, “Professional basketball back in those days was an extension of your college career. You always had a job in the summer. Guys worked for banks to generate more money for their family. They’d retire at 28 years old because they’d have families and realize this wasn’t going to work.”

Incidentally, I had stumbled upon one of Wilt Chamberlain’s side jobs because Mom had saved a newspaper clipping of Wilt (7’1″) trying to get into a Volkswagen (13’4″ long). It doesn’t relate to my cow story, so just think of it as a commercial break.

Keep in mind, this wasn’t exactly a cash cow in today’s world, but Wilt was getting paid far, far better than Dad, who was also in on Wilt’s commercial. Dad was just the side of potatoes getting paid $1,000 to show that someone his size (6’6″) could get in the car. Check it out, it’s so cute.

King Rose Archives posted the commercial on YouTube.

Though it moved us further away from our cow discussion, Dad had fun memories of his sister teaching him how to get from first to third gear so he could drive ten feet for the commercial. He wasn’t going to give up his $1,000.

The commercial took forever, and while they were standing around waiting, Dad said Wilt would go to the back of the VW where the engine was, and just for kicks, he’d pick it up and move the tires. That could have been a whole other commercial.

So after that commercial break, and while we’re still on the topic of Wilt, there’s my final cow story, which we can call Wilt Jumped Over the Cow. I found the reference to Wilt’s post game ritual of drinking a quart of milk in a March 9, 1966 newspaper clipping. So I asked Dad if this was true. You know how the papers can be.

Dad said, “Oh yes. He’d also eat an apple pie and a quart of milk or a quart of orange juice at half time while the rest of us would drink a little water.” It was remarkable how he fueled himself, but Dad explained, “Gatorade wasn’t available then.”

So that’s how I came to write a post about a cow. Of course, the post doesn’t feel like it can end here, not without an explanation of the golf ball game. So if you want to stick with me, I’ll steer away from our muse on cows to explain.

It started so simply back in the summer. I found my first ball outside the golf course fence. I didn’t know then that it would change my dog-walking days from that point on. I dreamed of finding balls all summer long and making a golf ball-lined fence.

Back to the first ball I found, I put it on the top of the fence. And the reality quickly set in that my game would have to be different. The ball dissappeared. In fact, every ball I found and put up on a fence post, it didn’t matter where it was, it would be gone.

Then it became: how dare they mess with my game? I even thought of supergluing the balls to the fence post, but I had to keep this on the public side of the fence, where I’m allowed to tresspass.

The game progressed, and I’d hide the balls. I’d lose those balls too.

By September, I decided to write funny sayings on the balls, like “Was Lost But Now I’m Found” or I’d honor special dates that coincided with finding a ball like “50” (yes, that was me turning 50). But the elements were against me, or at least, there was the weather that would wear my words away (Sharpie blue pens are not weatherproof).

So I bought Sharpie Extreme’s. I was ready for the balls to be found and the golfers to have a good laugh, only it was the fall. Even if I was finding balls, no one else was looking for them.

By the time winter had set in, I was afraid to leave the balls out so I hoarded all the golf balls in my house like a squirrel with her nuts.

Even still, my family got in on the game and they find balls on their walks, too. We might not find a ball a week, but when we have a few spring days thrown into the wintry mix, we can find a ball or two. Winter golfers don’t look for their balls, for some reason.

Last week Alex found a ball that said “practice”. It wasn’t even along the golf course, but that’s when I realized that it had to be Kobe’s ball. Thanks to Kobe, every week’s muse will get a ball.

Thanks to Alex finding this “PRACTICE” ball, one found ball a week will be dedicated to the week’s blog post muse.

Next time the ball jumps over the fence and lands in the graveyard, don’t dismay and worry about the state of your golf game. Now that my game is in full swing, I’ll resurrect your ball with a funny little pun, a saying to let you know it’s an important event for me or my family or maybe the ball will be the title from one of my blog posts.

And even if you don’t find one of my balls and all you get is a plain white one with a number and the golf ball brand, just remember, there’s a story behind every ball, even if it’s just about the golfer who lost it. If you’re lucky enough to find a ball, see where the story leads you.

A Muse 4 You: Suppose you found this ball, what meaning would it have for you?

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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.

A Muse 4 You: 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.

A Muse 4 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?

A Muse 4 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!

A Muse 4 You: What have you been in hot pursuit of recently?

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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!

A Muse 4 You: 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. A Muse 4 You: What might you click away?

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