Tuesday, August 30, 2011

As Close to Flying As I'll Get

I have a good walk in the morning, from my car through the huge parking lot to the entrance of the building that houses my lovely job. I don't get there as early as I used to, which makes my walk even longer, since thousands of people work in my building.

I don't mind.

I busy myself, usually fiddling with my iPod while peripherally minding the traffic.

I’m still aware of what is around me, but even if I notice someone I recognize nearby, I’m likely to appear too distracted call over to them. My little walk through the lot is my time.

There are geese – and I mean to say tons of them – who gather around the perimeter of the parking lot. Our lot used to be their home. They still try to make it so every Spring and they stay around through Fall, sometimes poking at the ground even after the first frost. The geese are completely unfriendly and territorial. They are also consistent and loyal.

For the last two qualities, I love those vicious, primitive, elegant, gray geese.

I actually have a little thing about birds in general. I love to see them fly. I am fascinated by them… not enough to study them, but enough to pay attention to them. Blackbirds flocking up and back in their cryptic formations; tiny yellow finches darting in and out of our trees; electric hummingbirds vibrating around a red, globed feeder at our family’s place in Arizona. And I really like when the giant bone-pickers (the large, predatory birds who manage road-kill) circle the highway as I travel along, so I can see their huge wingspans as they float above.

This morning, it was unusually quiet as I walked in, and far off, I could hear a flock of geese approaching. Soon, they were nearly overhead, and as they passed right in front of me, just five feet above my height, they stopped honking for about three seconds.

And in that moment, all I could hear in the world was the thick, lush sound of their enormous wings. It was magnificent.

I felt a lump in my throat and an involuntarily sad-happy smile…the kind you get when something is just so…haltingly beautiful…here and then gone. I felt wistful. Thankful.

I hope I hear that sound again someday. I can still hear it, but...

The beating of wings.

(I know, I’m a sap.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Justice on the Brain

Random thoughts from the week...

OF COURSE Casey Anthony could not serve probation while she was in jail... I mean, isn't probation where you have the opportunity to mess up again but don't because The System has "rehabilitated" you? C'mon...how can you write bad checks again from behind bars?

And speaking of justice...yes, Casey should have to pay money back to the State of Florida since she admittedly LIED to the police and sent everyone on a wild chase searching for her daughter, when she knew her daughter was dead the entire time.

I do not agree with people who are bashing Cindy and George Anthony for doing an interview. If they'd like to have their thoughts and feelings known, they are entitled to it. They've been through hell and vilified by so many...it might be cathartic for them to have the chance to speak uninterrupted. I do not, however, understand why they'd have Dr. Phil conduct the interview. Dr. Phil doesn't lend to their credibility and I doubt he's doing it out of some humanitarian motivation...he is likely looking for ratings. I'd rather see someone of substance interview them and have it be more...factual with some emotional than sensational, which is what it will be if Dr. P does it.

If you're curious about the documentaries on the West Memphis Three that helped them navigate through eighteen years of false imprisonment, HBO is running the first two documentaries this week. Check your local listings for times, or you can see them On Demand today through the 30th. Wherever Damien, Jason and Jessie are right now, I hope they're getting rest, sunshine, massages, good food and finding sound counsel. I can't even imagine...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Just a Little Bit…

In 1993, I was a little self-absorbed.

My parents were still involved in a bitter, heated divorce; I was working two or three jobs at a time; and I was struggling to complete college, having just been kicked out of the house because my Mom and I were really, really, really not getting along.

So, when three teenagers were convicted of killing three children in West Memphis, Arkansas, I can remember it happening, but I didn't follow it. I was too far into crisis mode to think of anyone but me.

But three years later when Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills was released, I was in more of a position to pay attention. And I did pay attention. I didn't have a choice.

The day after I saw it, I felt that strange feeling you get after having a really bad dream…that strange, uneven feeling that follows you around all day. You can’t put your finger on it, but something isn’t right. You can’t stop thinking about it. You find yourself reflecting on little bits of it, even when you don’t want to.

I thought, “Am I being gullible? Is there any way on Earth that these teenagers could have done this?” And I realized that no…while I didn’t know all the details, I was certain in my gut that Damien Echols, Jessie Miskelly and Jason Baldwin were innocent. Certain of it. And I chose to go with it. They're innocent. The second documentary only laced things up more tightly for me.

Over the years, I’d read online and follow the case and in time, I began praying for the West Memphis Three’s release, and praying for justice in the form of the real guilty persons' capture and prosecution.

Today, Jason, Jessie and Damien are free. Thank You, G*d, thank You for listening. I cried, just a little bit. Not a big, sobbing, co-workers-can-hear-you cry, but a few good old-fashioned, quiet, big tears as I read and watched the ruling unfold today. I can’t imagine…

It occurs to me, reading and watching today, that they’ve not only been in prison half their lives, but I’ve been following their case for nearly half of mine. Where early footage shows their faces still holding baby fat and obvious youth, today’s footage shows three, extremely tired, thirty-something men who look like they’ve been to war.

In a way, they have.

But tonight, as they’re able to enjoy the hugs of family and friends, the love they’ve been starving to feel for years, the comforts of home like shower and soft bed and familiar clothes, food that isn’t served on a metal tray…silence. Tonight they can begin to explore the next portion of their lives, one that I’m certain will be full of purpose and meaning.

There is no silver lining, but when you look at those boys and the oppressive nature of the town and limited resources of where they grew up, chances are, they’d have gotten jobs locally and lived pretty normal lives working normal jobs, perhaps getting married or having kids. Instead they are each in positions where they can make a difference. I see Damien and Jason advocating forever, working to help others who have been falsely accused. Damien will pursue his art. Maybe he and Lorri can start a family of their own now. And Jason…he’ll be a good lawyer. He’ll really help the underdogs and he’ll be fantastic and passionate in his work. And Jessie? I just hope he can enjoy the little things. No matter what he does, he will work hard and be grateful every day. He will still need a little help and guidance, but he’ll be alright.

Everything will be alright, because I really do think that these boys will also do what they can to see that the real criminals are found and captured. I'm counting on the rest of my prayer coming true, too.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Once upon a time, I was in the “gifted program.” I always thought that was a big bunch of crap because while I know I was a bright and creative kid, I don’t think I was anything exceptional. I do think that I had the advantage early on of a stay-at-home mom who’d been an educator and who taught me how to read very early on. I also had a big sister who was three years older and “played school” with me non-stop. So…I’d say more than gifted, I was just very prepared.

This became more evident to me as I got older. In junior high, the gifted kids were all freaking brainiacs. A pair of twins, who were Japanese, had a strict father who conducted classes all summer long. (They also weren’t allowed to do anything fun, like go to dances, which I thought sucked.) They’d leave on the last day of school each year, lugging loads of books too heavy for their lanky, pre-teen arms. There were a few others who stand out in my mind…they’d been in the enrichment classes with me in elementary school and we’d all known each other since kindergarten. But junior high was a blending of a few elementary schools, and the kids from the other elementary school were very competitive and extremely academic.

And I was a dunce when it came to advanced math. Addition, yes. Subtraction, okie-dokie. Multiplication and division, gotcha. But if you start putting numbers and letters together, I figure you’re just trying to mess with me. And if someone intentionally messes with me, one of two things seems to happen: I either adopt an air of indifference and completely dismiss the person or I become extremely and obviously pissed.

When you’re a child and in school, indifference is the better choice.

For example, when I read things or saw charts that were ridiculously difficult, I’d check out. I figured those materials were not for me. If they were for me, they wouldn’t be pretentious and unnecessarily complicated. For example, in college, I never got through a leisure read of Gravity’s Rainbow because at the time, it felt impossible to read. (I may try it again one day soon, but at the time, I thought, what the hell?)

So, when I saw all that algebraic stuff on the board, I’d check out. Sure, I’d have my pencil poised above the paper, I’d be looking at the teacher, I’d nod and seemingly follow along in the textbook. But in my mind, I was thinking about Duran Duran or wondering if my skin would ever clear up. I had no idea what the teachers were saying. Their words were foreign to me.

We had “gifted English” right before “gifted math.” Math was in the same room as English. And I was one of two “gifted” people who didn’t make it into gifted Math…me and the poor, truly gifted kid with severe behavioral and social disorders.

Every day, when the bell rang, the hoodlum and I had to get up and slink out of the room because we weren’t good at math.

I remember one of the students saying something snide to my mathematically deficient counterpart’s back about being a loser one day when we were leaving the room. I shot a look over my shoulder and someone said, “Oh! I didn’t mean you!” followed by giggles of embarrassment, but I knew the truth.

The thing is, I knew who I was then and I know who I am now. Even though I err on the side of self-depreciation, I know my strengths as well as my weaknesses.

So, when I was asked at work today to write on a project that is way out of my league, I gave it a try. I tried not to think about the hold advanced numbers have had on me or how math courses contributed to a very average GPA my whole academic career…reflecting points much lower than I think I’d otherwise have earned.

After three hours of truly trying to explain terms that I’ve never even heard of, after four trips into my supervisor’s office, after 45 minutes on www.investopedia.com, after my shoulder became stiff and I had a lump in my throat, I threw in the towel.

Someone on the other end of my email may have snickered and said, “Loser,” under their breath, but I don’t give a damn.

I am not a quitter, but I asked for someone else to draft the information and I volunteered to edit it. I can’t write it. It’s not what I do.

What I can do is edit it into a format that will allow other people, like myself, understand the advanced concepts by curling them into shapes that they’ll recognize.

But for today, I’m shaking it off. I know what I’m good at. I know what I want to invest my time in.

I’m giving myself an A for effort.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Didn't Get A Part...

...but maybe I did get my foot in the door.

So, I auditioned for the show I mentioned the other week. It was my first audition in more than 20 years and I wasn't expecting a lead, but I hoped to get the experience of reading for a lead.

But that isn't how things work when you've got an experienced director with a strong personality and a sense for who he already wants to cast in the main roles. However, it's his show, and these auditions weren't about me getting a practice run at future audition attempts. So, I didn't even really have a chance to try, but that is OK.

Here is how it broke down:
Auditions were Sunday and Monday, and I opted for Monday because we were so busy this weekend. If I'd been smart and thought about it, I'd have gone on Sunday because it was clear to me that he had the two female leads picked out from that night's auditions. How do I know? Because there were about six ladies - including me - who showed up Monday night and none of us got to read for the lead roles.

So, I got there a little early, and had a nice chat with one of the producers, who turned out to be a board member for the theater association and I mentioned that even if I didn't get a role, I'd like to be on set crew or help out backstage. And I meant that...I'm really interested in getting involved.

I was the first to read, and it was for a small but significant role. The character is odd and kind of sets the tone for the production. And, the character requires an accent, according to the director's vision of her, which I know that I could not do unless I had practice time. There was no practice time nor was there a practice place. I didn't even attempt to do one when I read...I just read the character strong and stern as I heard her in my head in the way I envisioned her - just without the accent.

But the next woman who read for it was about 15 years older than I am and robust and loud and nailed the accent. I thought, "Check!"

Then the other side the director handed me I didn't get to read for because yet another robust woman with a loud voice and accent was called up first and killed it. I mean she IS that character, probably in her personal life, or else she is a damn fine actress who should be on Broadway. I mean, for a "cold read," she sounded more like she'd either played the part before or memorized the script and rehearsed it...and if she did, kudos to her! She was off the page and everything.

And with that, we were dismissed.

And then I got my, "thanks...so sorry, but..." email from the director a few hours later. And the aside that maybe some backstage opportunities would be available if I was interested. I replied and said I definitely was.

So, no part for me, BUT I am still happy I did it. Guts! I will try out again and I hope I get to contribute to this show somehow. This just wasn't my play. I'm not a character actor. I can act. I'm not like Shakespeare or Oscar quality or anything, but I can act. And there is a production out there for me. I just have to find it.

And meanwhile, maybe they can let me give them a hand on this show... I'll let you know!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Big Post

So much has happened in the last week…time to get caught up!

Especially…my 40th birthday extravaganza with Steinvic and Paul Mc Cartney! Who cares if there were 40,000 people there along with us?! But first, Steinvic and I headed downtown midday and checked into our hotel room.

He'd reserved a junior suite and it was so fantastic. Flowers. Champagne. Chocolate covered strawberries. Lovely and luxurious!

We went to Rock Bottom for a very late lunch/very early dinner. Warning: do not get the nachos unless you bring lots of friends with you! Good golly… we each ate only about a corner’s worth because we didn’t know how big they’d be and we’d ordered actual lunch, too. But it was a nice meal and once we were through there, we headed to Macy’s to spend our gift certificates we'd received for our birthdays.

After some shopping, we headed back to our room for drinks, relaxing and then getting gussied up to go to the show!

And WOW…how amazing were our seats?! We were in row P on the floor level of the Great American Ballpark. This was the first concert the Cincinnati Reds has hosted and it was a huge success. The place was packed and everything still ran smoothly.

You can read more about the concert and see a slide show here. Words can’t describe how unreal getting to go to that concert was…enjoyed every minute, knew every song, and were surrounded by happy music lovers of all ages. We had a blast, and Paul Mc Cartney is fabulous and his voice is just as clear and strong as ever (and please, quit being surprised by this, people! He is ONLY 70!) I loved the David Bowie concert that was our first date in Ohio, and I loved the Arizona U2 concert when we got engaged...both were awesome and unforgettable sentimental and wonderful. But I will definitely remember and hold dear this concert for my entire life, especially all the time, effort, love and thoughtfulness that Steinvic put into making it happen.

The next day, we headed out to pick up Houdini (this is what I’m calling our Pup here now, since we discovered that he is able to escape his gate without disturbing it...we've since figured it out, but it's still fun to call him that...) on Friday, which I had off, thanks to Steinvic! Houdini stayed at my folks’ for the night, so when we left there, they followed us home with an awesome butcher block table that they didn’t need.

We got that all set up and then worked on house things Saturday and Sunday, and bought chairs to match the table at IKEA

Have you ever been to IKEA? It’s neat, but it’s not a quick get in/buy stuff/leave experience, even if you want it to be. But, we got great chairs for $40 each (thanks to my folks...birthday gift from them!) and trust me when I say, we’ve been chair-shopping for a while and even the simplest chairs ain’t cheap, so we were thrilled to get these so reasonably. So, we’re set. We have a table and chairs that are lovely and our house is ready for our guests who will arrive this evening.

Audition tonight...will post about that tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Forty is Nicer Than I Thought it Might Be…

Steinvic has done a phenomenal job of making my birthday special, even though he has to be away this evening for work. I woke to the sounds of The Beatles singing “Birthday,” because he’d bought (and set up while I slept) an awesome iPod alarm clock! He had the songs all set up for this morning and it was a sweet and special way to start this milestone birthday.

I went into the bathroom and there was my Paul McCartney Sgt. Pepper doll on the counter, holding an envelope with Paul McCartney on the outside…and inside two tickets to his upcoming concert! And an explanation that we’d be staying at a favorite hotel downtown the night of the show. And a gift certificate to Macy’s and an iTunes card to load up some more McCartney onto my iPod and a hilarious Hoops and YoYo (love those guys!) card…I was completely floored. I was, in fact, so excited (and perhaps a little hung over from last night’s drinks at our local) that maybe Steinvic isn’t aware of the full extent of my joy, even though I thanked and thanked him…(Thank you, baby!)

And to top it off, Steinvic sent two dozen of the most beautiful roses…pink with red tips. I’ve never seen anything like them before and they smell heavenly…

I am spoiled.

It’s been a birthday full of music so far.

Every four years, birthdays mean a stop at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and today is one of those birthdays for me. The closest BMV to work is in a very urban, slightly rough area. I pulled into the lot and thought better of leaving my iPod in the car, even though I knew I’d only be a moment, because I didn’t want it to get stolen. (I rarely do this anywhere anyway, unless I can hide it under something.)

I walked in and there wasn’t much of a wait. A couple thuggish-looking guys were sitting in the window chairs. A couple was being waited on at the counter, and a few other folks were ahead of me, already being helped, too. It was very quiet and surprisingly not too crowded.

And suddenly, loud and clear, from the depths of my purse…”Heeeeeeeeeeeeeey, yeeeeah…I wanna shoop, baby, shoop…Ooo! How you doin’, baby?” Yep, Salt n’ Pepper’s “Shoop” sang out from my iPod, which I must have jostled as I’d removed my wallet.

So here is this very square-looking, business-dressed, mortified white (quickly turning red) chick in the BMV, scrambling to shut off the Shoop song that had everyone in the place looking at me. And of course, I couldn’t get it to shut off. I was pressing the top button and the home button and the song just kept playing. “Oh my goodness…Shoop ba doop ba doop ba doop…”

Finally, silence. A white-haired clerk stared at me from behind the desk as her printer was generating something, and shook her head slightly in disapproval.

And then, the male portion of the couple at the desk begins singing the song. Over and over.

I think they were probably happy to see me leave. Everyone probably thought that was my ring tone on my phone.

Of course, when I pull out of the BMV lot, new license in hand, I plug in my iPod and that song is still on…before I can hit next (I had it on shuffle), I notice that walking right by my car is the guy who was singing, and he starts singing it again.

So embarrassed…he probably thinks that is my favorite song. (I swear, it’s not!) One of the reasons I do like it, though, is this bit by Ellen…every time I hear the actual song, I think of this skit and it makes me smile. Hope it makes you smile today, too! Lots of things to smile about...