Thanks for checking into my blog!

As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Another day at the Office

Rule #13 –Push the limits of your comfort zone

     It occurred to me that I’ve been summarily absent from the blogosphere for quite a while. Since January… mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! But there’s a very good reason why. I’ve spent the past six months doing first person research. Yes, six whole months of pushing myself so far outside my personal comfort zone… I don’t even recognize me. Scary? You bet! Fun? Would I be writing about it if it wasn’t?
     It all started last summer with a dare – sort of. My bestie challenged me to join her at an open casting call in Annapolis. Hmmmm, said I… Very interesting thought. But, for some reason, I couldn’t go to the call. But the casting agency wanted anyone and everyone to set up a profile on their website and get into their database. I did it. And what did I learn from that part of the experience? I stink at taking selfies. Enough said about that.
     But that database and a forwarded email from my bestie led the two of us to Hopkins - Homewood Campus on the hottest day so far that summer to be extras in a “political drama filmed in Baltimore”.  Yes, we knew the show. And that was the day we had to pretend we were New Hampshire primary voters, in the dead of winter, so we could greet the Presidential candidate.
     Off we went at 7 am to drive through rush hour traffic. We got to the assigned parking garage with no problem. Once there, we queued up with about 300 of our soon-to-be-closest friends to take shuttles to the staging area. At least at the staging area, it was air conditioned.
     Once set up in the staging area, the crew schooled us in background actor etiquette and checked our wardrobe pieces. The colors would determine if we would make camera or just be filler. We also had to look like we were out in the cold, so we needed to be bundled up. Did I mention that this was actually the hottest day of the summer so far?
     We all checked make-up and got our clothing pieces together. Then we were shuttled to the set. Outside Homewood Field we were grouped by wardrobe. We ended up waiting about a half hour while the camera crew finished a shot inside. Then it was time. All of us background actors got placed where they wanted us to be. We were told what the shot was supposed to be. We were given direction as to how to react. We were rearranged in the shot like flowers in a vase.
     Then the director himself came out. He thanked us all for our work, since we had been at this for a few hours already. Everyone had their marks. The main character of the scene made his entrance and did what he was supposed to do as a Presidential candidate – work the crowd. There were several rehearsals of the scene. Then the crew did some technical maneuvering and we rehearsed and shot several more takes. Then we were done with that scene.
     The group of us gathered outside the stadium where the background crew grouped us again. At least for this scene, we could take off the winter gear. We stood there, chugging water like crazy, and many of our lot were dismissed for the day. I got to go with two others over to the trainers’ offices for another scene. But, alas, I didn’t make the final cut… why? I had white on in a spot where it would reflect the light. Who knew?
     Sounds like an uncomfortable day, doesn’t it? Weather wise, yes. Excitement wise, no! A lot of great experiences came from this day. I learned a lot about television production from watching how the lighting was used with the natural background. It was fascinating to watch the changes that one shade or blocked window could make in the look of a scene. One part of my bucket list was checked off – the one about being an extra in a movie or TV show.
     In my quest to learn more about life, this experience taught me quite a lot. I saw how series shows are filmed in bits and pieces. I learned who has the power on the set – the real persons that are in charge. I learned background actor etiquette and pecking order. I learned that crazy and mismatched wardrobe sells on television. I learned there is a perceived age bias in shows… meaning you can’t look like you are over a “certain” age with hair color or wrinkles. The size bias is real too, but going away in some instances. The knowledge that your day’s work could end up on someone’s cutting room floor is humbling too. It is what it is, in TV.
     The day wasn’t a downer at all. I did spend the day with my bestie having fun. I did see Kevin Spacey work close up. I did get “the bug”, so to speak. And I met a friend who is active in community theater near me. Not bad, if you ask me.
     So if you are watching “House of Cards”, season 4, episode 1 on Netflix, look for me in the scene where Presidential candidate Underwood is shaking hands in New Hampshire. I am the small white hat in the lower left-hand corner of the long shot for a millisecond. My bestie is up close shaking hands with the candidate.
     And we both went on to community theater work with my friend.

     More on that later….

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

All is cold, All is white

Rule #48 - You can’t control what happens, only your response to it

     Boy ain’t that the truth! Especially this week in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and our Blizzard of 2016.
     I sit here in beautiful downtown Maryland after Ma Nature dumped 29.2 inches of the white stuff in the greater Baltimore area. You remember that scene in “Ghostbusters” when Dan Akroyd channels the Stay Puft Marshmallow man? Yes, my entire neighborhood looks like the dude exploded before our eyes. My sister suggested we toss several boxes of Rice Krispies out and make a super Krispie treat. If it really was marshmallow, we could do it.

     As of today, it’s been 5 days cocooned in my house. I did a journal exercise for my therapy session and thought I would share some of my musings.
     Head back to last week and storm prep day, or days. Storm prep included a mini-date with the 4-letter S-word on Wednesday. We didn’t get much snow at all, but it was just enough to send some folks into panic mode. The grocery stores were loaded with people shopping for supplies for a long weekend. Lots of snack food found its way into shopping carts of young and old alike. Hardware stores sold out of shovels, sidewalk salt, ice melt, generators and snow blowers. It was time for me to check my prep list here at home:

  • Ice melt – got that in October when everyone was fully stocked. Moved it to the front porch before the snow started on Friday.
  • Home made scoop for the ice melt... necessity is the mother of invention
  • Shovels – I have 2 and I found them hiding behind the gardening equipment. I moved one to the front door, the other to the back.
  • Food – Last minute stock up run at 10 pm on Thursday evening. And guess what? No one was in the Safeway at that time. Made turkey stock for soup, and processed up salad items. Found the Sterno.
  • Firewood – moved some wood to the back porch door and covered it with plastic. Moved purchased DuraFlame logs on to front porch, and a few made it inside.
  • Water – already had a supply of drinking water. Got any gallon jugs from the recycle bin and filled them for flush water. Filled one of the bathtubs too. If we lose electricity, we lose water too. (Well and septic systems). That means toilets don’t flush – and the result is not pretty.
  • Car with wipers and side mirrors covered
  • Car – pull car to the end of the driveway facing the street. Put socks on pulled-up wipers and bags over side mirrors. Gas tank is three quarters full and that will do.

     Now to pray that the electricity holds out.
Saturday morning - I can see a hint of the 18-inch ruler I put on the lower shelf
     From Friday evening to Saturday morning, the snow fell at a steady rate, but not too much. I was able to move about 4 inches by the time I went to bed on Friday night. I did decide to do the shoveling in stages, since the Friday snow was really light and fluffy. The first shovel pass went quickly. Saturday morning’s shoveling went quickly too. I was able to get to the street both times. The speed of the snow picked up on Saturday as the day went on. What I shoveled was quickly covered over. When I went out on Saturday afternoon, I was only able to clear out part of what I already shoveled out. The moisture content of the snow was increasing, meaning the load got heavier. Time to let Ma Nature finish and pick it up again Sunday morning.
Poor Mathilda! This is not her kind of weather

     You know travel is dangerous when an Archbishop gives general dispensation for Sunday Mass. That’s what happened in Baltimore. Some churches were open in the city, but most were not. If a neighborhood church was having services, it was because the pastor lived within walking distance to the church.
     Most of us spent Sunday trying to shovel our ways out of the house. I timed myself for 20 minute stints shoveling. I totaled out with over an hour actually moving snow and got back through to the street by nightfall. Someone with a morbid sense of humor said we should shovel a gurney’s width in case of emergency. I thought of songs I’ve sung with chorus, like “Marshmallow World”, and “Let it Snow”. I was beginning to hate those songs. And if someone asked me if I “Want to Build a Snowman?”, violence may have erupted. Muscles were sore and I am not a patient patient.
Front of the house after the second round of shoveling on Saturday
Snow's getting higher
     Monday, the goal was to clear in front of the car so I could get out if I had to. Thank Heaven for one of my construction neighbors who had a bobcat! He cruised the ‘hood and helped where he could. Yes, I did pay him. He took no more than 20 minutes to move all the snow from in front of the car, drifts and all. I took care of the side of the car. Then the job of cleaning the car began. My poor Dori-mobile had a deep dish snow pizza on top. Clean it off, shovel around the car, repeat. I was able to get the snow pizza pushed down to a “snowhawk”. With temps above freezing, it melted in the daylight. Whatever melted turned to ice at night. By today, the car was totally clear of snow.
Monday afternoon - car is cleared, only traces of snowhawk left

Driveway opened up thanks to the bobcat

Mailbox is accessible so bills can still arrive
     Through it all, we kept electricity, even with blizzard type winds. That was one of the best gifts Ma Nature could have given me. I didn’t lose water, I kept my heat, and I was able to binge-watch TV shows and clear off my DVR. I got to see a decent football game between the Broncos and Patriots. The Cardinals/Panthers game was more of a blowout and got boring really fast. But now I have to decide on what to fix for a Super Bowl party and who to invite.
     Closings and cancellations abound on Monday and Tuesday. Many of my teacher friends have a pool going on when they will get back to school. I’ve got teachers on Friday and kids back on next Monday. Just some friendly wagering, for educational purposes only, no money exchanged.
     Now, as I look back on the storm, I realized how anxiety free the storm was for me personally. My reaction might have been different if I lost electricity. But with the lights – and computer – on, I didn’t feel so cut off, in the dark. I looked back and saw that I did as much storm prep as humanly possible. After that, it was up to Ma Nature and I couldn’t do a thing about it. That part alone reduced my anxiety level. The phrase “Thy will be done” took on a whole new meaning.
     Plus, I was by myself through it all. It gave me a chance to think a lot of things through. I had the chance to plot out some projects once all the snow is cleared away. It was as if Ma Nature knew we all needed to kick back for a few days and chill. She sure knew I needed more activity and I got it shoveling (aka, lifting weights). It gave me a chance to remind myself how physically pffft I am. No time like the present to rectify the situation… gradually.
     Isn’t it amazing when you feel like you and the universe are on the same wavelength? All is calm…. Even me.
     Now to start on the back porch… or I can wait for spring…

Going to have to remove screen to begin shoveling...

...and where do I put the piles out back?
 Photos are the property of Marge McGugan. No reuse without permission.
Video from YouTube: "Ghostbusters- Stay Puft Marshmallow Man", 2016