Monday, September 5, 2011

A Standing Ovation

I received the news this afternoon that my drama coach from middle school through high school passed away. A woman who taught me to just get out there and do it, who gave me confidence and courage. And who put up with a lot of my bull shit, especially when I had Senioritis and a severe case of Divatude (and I'm not entirely sure that went away).

If you know me, you'll know I have a flair, so to speak, for the dramatics. While I hated school for the most part -- hmm, wait that's not totally accurate: I excelled in school academically but I had an extreme dislike for the environment. Picture me: the honor roll girl, who sang in the choir and played in the band, who teachers liked but boys did not, the one with a tight group of close friends and a need to get out of the tiny, rural town she grew up in. If you close your eyes, you might imagine it. This awkward-in-her-skin girl who did everything as best she could just to know she was good enough. All the while praying that it would be good enough for a one-way ticket out of town.

I dreamt about being onstage when I was little. I danced and always loved the costumes we got to wear, but when I saw people act, I decided in my head that I wanted to do that, too. I wanted to be onstage, in front of other people, living a life I didn't have - a magical, fairytale, happily ever after life. If I could be onstage, I could be anyone. That was my utopia, even if I had no idea of how to accomplish this aspiration.

In 7th grade (or was it 6th...) I joined the newly formed drama club at school. We rehearsed and put on a play featuring many different monologues performed by students in a made-up school. My part was a fast-talking, gossip who knew everything about everyone. I practiced so hard at memorizing the words and reciting them at lightning-fast speed. I'd stand in front of a mirror and go over each line, deciding my facial expressions, the exact head and hand movements. We performed the show in front of our peers... a one-night only deal... in the middle of the day. We may have also done it later in the evening, but I don't remember that. I do remember wearing a multi-colored striped shirt. Don't judge, it was the '90s.

I was so nervous.

I'm pretty sure no one cared, but I loved every second of it. I walked off-stage feeling this huge rush.

From then on, whenever there was an audition, I signed up. I was Ouiser in Steel Magnolias and Fairy May in The Curious Savage; my two favorite roles. I can still remember my first line as Ouiser: This is it! I have found it! I am in Hell! I didn't curse much [back then...], so saying "hell" in high school in front of my peers, my teachers, and most of the small town I grew up in, was, well, intimidating. We convinced our school to do musicals, and you'd think my head was gonna explode. My two favorite worlds collided: music and acting. From there, it was summer theater, and in college, I immediately sought out and discovered the acting crowd. In this world, I realized there were others like me: a little nerdy, darkly funny, and extremely tight knit. No one cared about the baggage you brought with you, just that you knew all the words to the current, beloved musical.

I had found my niche.

What I love about acting is the freedom it brings. I can stand up on stage and be anyone. I can memorize lines and portray every emotion imaginable. It's cathartic, really. Under the lights and make-up, I am happy, even if my personal life is crumbling around me. It never matters how bad a day I have had, onstage I am a character. Acting gave me my comedic timing. Or, I guess, allowed me to discover my inner-comedic-timing. It's been years since I've been in a show, something I miss. Recently my audiences have been attendees at the professional development or parent trainings I give. Even more recently, my daughter is the recipient of my rusty acting abilities. It's a good thing that she is so little because it has made her the best audience I've ever had.

So, tonight, I thank you for humoring me and allowing me to muddle through some old memories. No one is perfect, but the woman I remember was wonderful. Once upon a time, she took a chance on me and believed that I could do something great. She introduced me to an amazing world of imagination and creativity. She helped me learn how to be me without shame. And isn't that what a good teacher does?

And somewhere, I hope that she is taking a grand, final bow to a standing room only crowd, one welcoming her with an eternal ovation.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's... Alicia?!

Hey, remember my 40 before 40 checklist?

Item #11 was "Run the Disney World Princess Half-Marathon. In a tutu. And a tiara."

After reading the Runner's World article by Amby Burfoot describing his running of the 2500th Athens Marathon... in a Pheidippides costume, I was even more motivated to do something similar. I wanted to run in a costume. Maybe it appealed to my love of theatrics. Maybe it appealed to my dramatic flare. Maybe it appealed to my love of being the center of attention. Who knows? But I needed to check it off my list.

Enter: The Oddyssey Half-Marathon. A Philadelphia half that is touted as being developed by runners and for runners. Oh, and they encourage participants to run in costume.

I'll admit, at first I was intimidated by this race. I had contemplated running it during its inaugural 2010 event but chickened out. This year I felt I was in better shape, AND its beneficiary is Students Run Philly Style, so I took a chill pill and signed up.

A couple of things happened that encouraged me. The first was their campaign strategy. I was drawn to the mid-spring date (there aren't any other spring half-marathons in Philly that I know), and I knew I could hit the distance because of training for Broad St. Then, they marketed with a post card laying out a post-Broad St training plan! Brilliant! I read that thing and thought, "Hell! I can do this!"

Second, I wanted to show my students that I was serious about running enough to do non-SRPS events. Hmmm, there's probably some psychological problem there about needing to prove myself, but on to the next item.

Third, I needed my students to be involved in a fun event as on-lookers, and more importantly, to see running as fun! I convinced another team leader to run, too, and because we were running, our team volunteered to assist at water stations.

And because we committed to running in costume, they committed to volunteering in costume. And most did! Color me proud!

So as you can see I dressed up as Wonder WoMOM (the lesser known counterpart to Wonder Woman, a heroine who stands for last-minute, do-it-yourself-with-love-and-grace mothers everywhere)! I pieced the outfit together very carefully (read: done 2 nights before) using items from Party City & Michael's. I bought the running skirt & tank online; I spent more money than I initially wanted but felt the investment in running clothes as a base would go further than a costume. Note to self: using fabric glitter paint 2 days before event will not guarantee dry paint and will most likely smudge. Wonder WoMOM strikes again!
If I have not already mentioned it, this was the first half-marathon that I would be running completely solo. Sure, I knew other race-goers, and I shot the ish with them before the race started, but I had no buddy to stay the course with, no sidekick, if you will. I knew I could finish, but I won't lie, making this venture alone was mentally tough. Maybe it was a fear of truly going it alone, or perhaps it was my ego, but additionally the weekend coincided with my husband's surprise guy-family-only bachelor trip for his brother which totally bummed me out. I compensated by convincing my mother-in-law to drag my daughter to the finish line earlier than either of them would be coherent on a Sunday... just to see me run 13.1 miles... dressed as a homemade superhero. Selfish, really: I yearned to hear Liv yell, "Go, Mommy!"

Anyway, race day came with perfect running weather at the start: cool with low-ish humidity for Philly in May. It was pretty awesome seeing so many runners in costume. The route was a familiar Philly-route: Please Touch Museum area to West River Dr (Now: Martin Luther King Dr.) to Art Museum, loop back to Falls Bridge, loop back to Sweetbriar & Lemon Hill to Please Touch. The course was hilly at first, and Lemon Hill at the end was killer (thank you to the random runner who cheered me on, correcting my form and aiding my focus!). Internally, I found myself struggling around mile 7. I have a real tough time running loops, and West River Drive is my LEAST favorite Philadelphia running route. It just feels long to me. Thankfully, my students were volunteering, so the thought of seeing them kept me going. I won't lie; when I did finally see them, I got such an incredible swell of pride. The loud burst of cheers for me helped, too. They may never fully grasp how much they really helped me finish this race.

Overall I did well technically: I paced well and timed my sports beans right. I foolishly tied my key to my sneaker incorrectly, so the darn thing kept whacking my ankle, a painful distraction toward the end. I had quite the nasty bruise after that mishap. I didn't have a "lifetime" PR, but I did best my November 2010 Half-Marathon time, so this was, overall, my 2nd best 13.1 mile finish. Also, I realized I did not use nearly enough Body Glide for wearing a skirt. Um, no pictures there. This was the first time post-race that I went home and literally sat in an ice bath. Clothes on. Felt soooo good. Not sure if it was the ice bath or the fact that I was totally prepared for this race, but I did not hurt nearly as bad as the November half afterward. Yay!

The swag for the race was sweet! I enjoy the t-shirt because it doesn't read like a race tee, and it includes the phrase, "Catch Me If You Can! I conquered 13.1." There wasn't much in the packet pick-up (eh), but at the end of the race, I got a medal AND a pint glass. Post-race runners could get a free beer AND a free massage; neither of which I cashed in on so as to give my mother-in-law some reprieve. She did drag my kid out early on a Sunday, so I figured making her stand around while I drank a beer &/or waited for my massage was a bit much. That may have drawn the line -- no, took a running leap over the line of selfish... I'll live. At the end of the day, Liv loved running around in my medal. I got to hear her proclaim that I won (best part of being a running mom!). Frank got to see photos of me dressed as Wonder Woman. Everybody wins!

Official Results: 
Oddyssey Half-Marathon
Philadelphia, PA
May 22, 2011
CHIP: 2:25:53 GUN: 2:26:50

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Mommy Tip: Looking Younger

You think it's easy being this good-looking? I manage a house, a husband, a 2 year old, and 2 cats. Life gets busy. Either good genes or smart body-care, I get a lot of comments on my age. It used to be that I looked more mature than my real age; recently, it's been on how fabulous I look for my real age. Which by the way, is NOT that old, thank you very much.

How do I do it? Well, there's exercise. And water. And eating well. Sure, sure, all that happy crap. Let's be honest, I don't have the time or the money to get regular spa treatments or lunch botox. I inherited great skin. But I also take care of it. I use lotion & facial cream like it's going outta style, and through all my skin care lessons, I learned the following incredible tips.

1. Take off your make-up at the end of the day, no matter what. Ladies, it doesn't matter how tired you are or how inebriated you got at that work party, TAKE IT OFF! Leaving make-up on can age you ten years or more. At least, that's what I heard... hey, I'm not citing this stuff, so believe what you want to believe. Or buy into what I'm saying blindly and look younger.

2. Use eye cream on your mouth laugh lines. Swear to God, this works. The eye cream is formulated to reduce fine lines, so use it where your fine lines are! Dab it on the under-eye area as well as around your mouth.

3. If you are older than 25, use a skincare regime that includes targeting your eyes and moisturizing your skin. Some women swear by a microderm set, and I have one. I use it when I remember... which is usually every 4 - 6 months. I have no idea if it works, but hell, it feels relaxing. And who are we kidding, I'll take relaxation whenever I can get it!

Product endorsement? Sure, I use Mary Kay products. Mostly because I have an inside connection, but I'm also pretty regimented. I have no interest in going out there and shopping around for more product. I also don't have the cash (it's a *good* connection). As long as I keep getting compliments, that's what I will use. Well, unless it starts to smell. Or there's some horrible animal testing, 3rd world child slavery issue. Until then, I'm a happy girl!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Mommy Tip: Cleaning the Bathroom

Today I've done more housework than in a long time, having no official work to do immediately nor any imminent vacation plans. That being said, my head saw the wrong side of a toilet bowl for a good 20 minutes. This kind of thing gets you thinking about how one goes about making it easier to get the necessary stuff done. I almost used the word "crap" there, instead of the word "stuff," but I figured it would come across as an awful pun.

Why 20 minutes? While we were away Frank told me about this awful "concrete-like dust" that kept building up on the basement toilet, no matter how often he cleaned it. Weird, we both thought, since the bathroom has no windows and is completely redone, as is the rest of the basement. I made a mental note to check it out but honestly, forgot.

Until today. While down in the basement doing laundry, I had to flush some hairballs (hey, this is a post about the bathroom, I'm not sugarcoating anything) courtesy of our younger cat [who manages to do this only on carpet...]. That's when I saw the "concrete-like dust" my husband was talking about. Except it wasn't dust. Nor was it concrete. It was mold. Taking over the inside of the toilet. I almost threw up right there. I thought about telling Frank it was his job, since he's the only one that uses that toilet. Then I realized, it's probably getting so nasty because Frank doesn't know how to actually clean a toilet. This thought led me to the blog post.

1. Buy gloves. Not the reusable kind. The ones that once you're done, you can toss them. Let's face it, after those things touch the germs in your bathroom, do you really want to use them again? Nope, didn't think so. The gloves will protect your soft skin, but in reality, this just allows you to keep from touching all the gunk you are cleaning. I would put my hands in poop water with gloves on. Well, that's probably not true, but you get the picture.

2. Use a plastic grocery bag to immediately throw away the gloves & paper towels you are using to clean off the surface (or any garbage: tissues that have fallen outside the trash, clumps of hair, etc). This will keep the germs from sitting around, potentially flying through the air, and it will minimize the exposure your family has to the cleaning products (see the next item). This is probably the most eco-friendly item on this post: reuse your plastic grocery bags.

3. Use bleach-based products. I don't care what you're gonna say about breathing in chemicals or the environment - blah, blah, blah. If you want your bathroom to be free of viruses, bacteria, mold and mildew, use something with bleach. I guess you can also create a white vinegar solution, but why go to all the trouble? Best two products I use: Lysol with Bleach (both the spray & the toilet bowl cleaner) and Comet with Bleach. Make sure to follow the product recommendations for use! If it says, to disinfect leave set for 30 seconds, do it! If it has to set for 10 minutes, find yourself something else to clean and let it set.

4. Scared of the fumes? Buy a mask. And open a window. I also like to do it when the baby is not home, preferably in the morning. This gives it all day to air out before she goes to bed in the room right next to our bathroom.


If all goes well, the new blog address as of Thursday, August 18th, will be:

Thanks for making adjustments!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's Nothing Personal

Keep an eye out -- the url for the blog will be changing over the next week. If you subscribe via email, you may need to sign up again. When I started this blog, it was meant to be a medium for our family and friends to keep tabs on Olivia's growth. As often happens, it's become much more than that, with many visitors looking for information on Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip & Spica Casts. I am thrilled that this site has become a resource, but from here on out, I will be putting less of our personal information (that goes for our family & friends, too!) on the site. Thanks for your continued support!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Mommy Tip: Traveling

As those of you who follow me on twitter (@BabyMakesChaos) know, we had quite the adventure coming home from Michigan this past Sunday. This recent travel (9 hours in the car, one way... without stopping) gave me some insight on how to get things to go more smoothly in the future.

1. When able, travel by night or when your child is most likely to sleep. The red-eye driving out to Michigan was tough the next day [for the adults] but we only had to stop for gas mid-transit. Plus we avoided most of the construction.
2. Bring something that plays movies. Not only is this invaluable on a plane or in a car, it's incredibly helpful if you're in a hotel room and need to get ready for an event but don't want your small child sticking their fingers in the electrical outlet. Dig?
3. Ask for a refrigerator. 99% of the hotels I've stayed at will give you one if you ask. This is clutch for food, medicine, water, and alcohol. 
4. I've discovered the more that I travel with Olivia, the more I need the following tucked away in the luggage: scissors (do NOT put these in carry-on bags!), baggies, plastic [grocery] bags, travel tissues, travel wipes. You'll figure out why in due time.

For those 45 minutes when your child is screaming, "I want my toy back!" at the top of her lungs, do yourself a favor and bring noise-cancelling headphones... or drugs - OTC, of course. :-)
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