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...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Confessioni di un Rookie Opera

Rule #28 – An author must continue to learn.

     You regular readers may have guessed that I really like music. It is a language all on its own. I enjoy almost all forms of music, even some rap. Once you get through the killer bass and blowing out of your woofers, sometimes there is some nice poetry buried in the noise. Most heavy metal is psychotic screaming to me, but there are a few tunes that get my toes tapping and feet moving. Let’s not forget the Big Bands and crooners.

     Yes, I even like classical music and some opera music.

     When I was teaching – seems like a thousand years ago – I used opera music as a deterrent. I also managed to honk off a few chorus teachers in the process. My thoughts were that the kids I taught liked rap and heavy metal. Classical music was painful to their ears. Opera, with high soprano arias, was even more so. To top it off, my singing along with opera, with high soprano arias, was the ultimate in torture. Detention equaled torture in their minds. Is there a better way to spend detention in my class, than to listen to Pavarotti’s favorite arias, with me singing along at the top of my lungs? I made sure the kids in all classes – all 12 classes of them at the end of my career – knew what they were in for if they crossed the line. There was always one or two who managed to earn a detention with me early in the year. The serenade was… well, I’m no music critic. But I must say that word got out and detentions with me in my classroom were few and far between. Most “frequent flyers” chose to ditch my detentions and rack up a few administrative detentions. The knuckleheads forgot that the next step was suspension. Dug their own hole, they did.

     Anyway, opera worked. A few even enjoyed the music. Now I’m not sure if they were brown-nosing, but some kids actually asked about the operas involved. They remembered some of the music from TV commercials.

     Up until recently, my only exposure to opera was on public television. Never saw one in person until a few summers ago. My cousin, who is an opera aficionado, suggested we see an updated comedy at Wolf Trap Barn. Yes, it was sung in Italian, and yes, the translation was running on a board above the scene. And yes, the music was magnificent. Yes, the story was funny. Yes, I could understand it. No one died, but it was still an opera.

     This is one event that Hub was not into joining me. He couldn’t see why it should take someone five minutes to sing about how they have to use the bathroom. Guess it just didn’t make sense to him. We agreed to disagree on this subject.

     The next operas my cousin and I saw were one act operas. Both had the leads died in the shows. One, however, had the main character sing almost the entire act. My throat hurt just imagining how she got through this. Singing at this level has to be cardio exercises to the max. I was at once amazed, awe-struck, and jealous of the singers. They had a talent I could only envy.

     Recently, my cousin invited me to join her and a few of my late aunt’s friends for an afternoon at the Met. Hmmmmm… says I. The Metropolitan Opera is in New York. Are we talking field trip? No, but the Met does have a “Live in HD” monthly event shown at certain movie theaters world wide. We went to a neighboring town, to the movie theater, and watched a live performance of “Francesca di Rimini”. It turned out to be a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

     Now the plot of the opera is pretty standard. Girl meets boy. Boy snows girl. Girl marries his brother. Girl and boy are still in love and start messing around. Youngest brother has the hots for girl, too. Youngest brother snitches to Hubby. Hubby gets honked off and kills girl and boy. Sounds like “My Three Sons” meets “Pretty Little Liars”. In between, there is some war stuff, and ladies gossiping.

     The production, though, was not what I expected. “Live at the Met” had little down time between acts. Act 1 ended and the cameras went back stage. The head of scene construction was interviewed. You watched the crew construct a massive tower and put all the components together in 15 minutes. It was quite the choreography. The mistress of ceremonies also interviewed the principal female lead. She ducked out of character for a few minutes to discuss her love of this piece, in particular. The male principal leads were interviewed between acts 2 and 3 and 3 and 4. The costume designer was interviewed. The conductor was, too. So much to learn about staging this opera in only 4 hours!

Photo from "Francesca di Rimini" Met Review by Lev Sviridov, Policymic.com

     Turns out, this opera hasn’t been staged at the Met for almost 30 years. All the scenery and costumes were stored in a freight container at a storage facility in Newark, New Jersey. When they opened the container after all those years… well, let’s just say that there was some restoring to be done to scenery and costumes alike. It was fascinating to hear the crew chiefs talk about what it took to bring these items back to usable glory. The costumes had so much intricate embroidery on heavy velvets. They were gorgeous and I’m sure fixing them up was labor intensive. I was just so glad I didn’t have to wear one of those costumes under heavy lighting.

     The “HD” set up allowed us to get close to the faces of the singer/actors. We were personal with the performers; where on the larger stage, we would not have seen such emotion up close.

     Toward the end was the “mandatory” commercial about next season’s operas. My cousin and I made plans to see a few of them. There was one in particular she wanted to attend. Turns out she knows one of the supporting singers. She wants to see him in action again.

     I can file this adventure under “Who knew?” Who knew I’d add opera to my list of favorite things to do? There is so much to look forward to…so much to learn.

     Forward! Must have more opera… must have more opera…

     Self, make it so.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Good Bye, Sandy

Rule #42 – When in doubt, do it for the fun of it.

     “Sandy, you hurt me real bad. You know it’s true." ( from Grease)

     Yes, Sandy – Hurricane Sandy. You remember that one, right? “Katrina ‘Light’”? It didn’t get the same horrific public response that Katrina did for those affected. But it got big-time news coverage since a lot of the worst damage was in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut areas. Right where the news services are headquartered…

     But Sandy hurt lots of others, too – others where overall damage wasn’t too bad. She got me good. Because of Sandy, some relatives were not able to see Hub before he passed away. I stayed 3 days at the hospital with Hub while Sandy did her “thing” to Maryland. On top of everything else, she left some damage to the house. On Tuesday evening, I left the hospital to check on the house and get some fresh clothes for myself. I found a small leak in the roof that caused drywall to bubble up on the ceiling in my office.  Nothing broke through, but the bulges were there, looking threatening. I turned two gooseneck lights up toward the ceiling and put the fan on, to get air moving to dry it up. Then said a quick prayer and headed back to the hospital. Hub died the next morning.

     “Sandy, can’t you see I’m in misery?”

     What a few days… and thank God above for the guy next door. My neighbor is in construction. He looked at the damage and gave me a report, so I could call the insurance company. The he put a temporary fix on the roof. The ceiling dried on its own, but he recommended tearing it out and replacing it, to prevent mold growth. He did the roof fixing without saying a word or charging me anything.

     Thank God above for my neighbors across the street. They both kept an eye on the house to make sure the power didn’t go off. We were lucky that way… we still had electricity after the storm passed.

     “I sit and wonder why-i-i-i-i…”

     There has to be a reason for everything. During the days following the storm, I was so busy that I fell each night into an exhausted sleep. We got through the funeral without further problems. Then it was time to start the paperwork that goes with losing a spouse. In the midst of that mess, was calling the insurance company. We didn’t file a claim with the damage we suffered during the deracho. Now was different. I was filing in spite of the fact that our rates would probably go up.

     Now to book the professionals to do the work… The company I chose, we used before. They put our back porch on the house and Hub and I were so pleased with the work. I also decided that, since we had the big stuff to do, we might as well do some cosmetic work too. I looked at the home improvement list Hub and I did for that room and a few others upstairs. I broke it down into damage repair and cosmetic work. The insurance company got the list of damage repair. I paid for the cosmetic work. The contractors were great about writing the bills so I could submit them in that way, too.

     Then the work started… more misery. Well, not entirely. The new roof wasn’t too bad. But when the inside work started, I was faced with a daunting task. I had to clear out 2 bedrooms that had become dumping grounds for “stuff”. My daughter helped a lot. She even took pictures of the more unusual “stuff” she found. We spent the better part of a weekend saying to each other “What the…??? Why was this saved?” There was also a few times where she went “When you go, I want this.” By the end of the pack up weekend, I couldn’t get past the door in my guest room, and I could barely get to my bed and the bathroom in my room. Everything was stacked up, packed up, and tossed into random boxes with no real plan.

     It took two weeks of heavy work to get everything done. At the end of the construction, I had wallpaper stripped from two areas; ceiling removed as well as insulation and both replaced; painting done in two bedrooms, the upstairs hallway and stairwell, and the downstairs hallway; and hardwood flooring put through the area. The floor guys refinished the steps to match. I was back to snorting spackle dust and not being able to vacuum enough.

     Now the reoccupation begins… Now the boxes for the most part, are empty. I’ve gone through a lot of the “stuff” and moved it downstairs, closer to the door. Hey if it’s close to the door it will leave the house, right? I’ve figured out which pictures I want back up. So much trash!!! So much to donate!!! I’ve found homes for a lot of items, like old text books. I hate to toss them out. Seems so wasteful, but they were from when I earned my degrees. Newer versions exist now and I’m sure they are available online.

     And then there’s the other rooms and how they look after a fresh coat of paint nearby. It’s amazing how you redo one room and more projects present themselves. I’m in a home improvement snowball! I’m trying to have fun, doing with I want with the room colors. And now, by choice, my main bathroom looks like a bottle of Pepto exploded on it. Yes, there’s that much pink out and about.

     I almost hate to finish, because the next thing I planned to tackle is my room, and Hub’s dresser and his part of the closet.

     Things are starting to calm down a bit. And now I am really starting to feel my loss. I’m doing ok… but just ok. More tears at odd times… never know what will trigger the waterworks.

     All of this and I’m still trying to recover my writing mojo…

     So many things still half done…

     So much left to start…

     “Sandy, you left me…”

     But I’m still alone… in a crowd.