Wednesday, August 3, 2016

IWSG- Enjoy the Moment

I had really wanted to post more this summer, but here it is already August and I've spent the whole summer having too much fun with my husband and kids!  But I figured with Jess and Alyss both starting college this fall, I'll have plenty of time to catch up on blogging when the house is empty.  :(

Today's IWSG though was the perfect day to take a moment and reflect on things ahead.

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a wonderful place where writer's get together and talk about their fears, insecurities, and successes.  It was the brain child of Alex J Cavanaugh in order for us to give encouragement to one another on this long and sometimes lonely journey of writing.  It has been truly inspiring to be a member.  Check us out and join here.  

Today, while I have many insecurities as a writer like anxiously waiting to hear back from a publisher and slogging through the edits/rewrites of my novel, I also have some super exciting news in my real world job.  

Some of you may know that I've been a figure skating coach for over 26 years.  In that time I've enjoyed teaching many children and adults the intricacies of my sport.  I love nothing more than the time I spend on the ice with each student, learning about their lives and what makes them tick then guiding them to do things they never thought they could and seeing their eyes light up when they succeed.  

While I try to teach my students to strive for excellence and precision, I've never been a big fan of skating competitions.  Yes, it is fun to win and I guess sometimes students need the competition to push them to greater heights, but personally I think when we put the focus on "winning" we lose sight of all we have learned along the way.  It's the day to day practice where the learning really happens, where even after falling twenty times you still have to get back up, analyze the mistakes and try something different.  Winning on a particular day isn't really what makes the champion, it's the passion and determination that is brought each day to practice.  

Why am I telling you this?

Because despite my feelings about competitions, next Saturday August 13, I'm taking my team of Theater on Ice skaters to compete in the National Showcase Championships for Theatrical Skating!  I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!  We'll be competing against 15 other teams from all around the country and a Canadian team.

My fabulous team of kids!

I'm already super proud of the kids on my team.  They have really come together and gelled as a team.  In fact, they have so much fun together that sometimes it looks like we're having more of a party on the ice than working hard.  Through it all, they've learned to support one another, forget differences, work together artistically, and deal with injuries.  

It's been a great year! 

I'd like to say (and really mean it) that I don't care at all what place we get, but when I search myself I know that of course I would prefer winning.  But whatever happens next Saturday, I'll be proud of these fabulous kids and the passion and determination they bring with them every practice.  

My biggest hope is that they all take the time to look around and enjoy the moment.  I know I'll be enjoying having the privilege to share this experience with them as much as I've enjoyed the whole year as their coach.  

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer!


Friday, July 15, 2016

College Bound

My world is changing.  

Not because Cleveland finally won a championship, not because the election, not because of the threat of terrorism in the world.  My world is changing because this fall both our daughters are starting college.  Jessica is going to commute to a local college and Alyssa is going to live at a different school about 45 minutes away.

This week I spent two days with Alyssa at her new school’s “welcome week” program.  It was so nice to have extended time with only her.  Of course as she grew up we spent a lot of time together just the two of us, but this seemed different.  We weren’t in the car headed off to some errand or even a skating competition.  This was me being there for her as she headed off to become a woman.  This was her finding her path through life.  

We found her dorm building.  She led me from her dorm to the ice rink, to prove to herself she could find it on her own.  The whole time we talked.  For the most part it wasn’t about super important things, we just talked about whatever came up; a cute guy that passed, being nervous and excited about scheduling classes the next day, decorating her dorm room.

At different points throughout the two days, they separated all the parents from the in-coming students to talk about specific ways to support your child’s journey, to help them be successful. They led the kids away to have meetings with their new advisors, schedule classes and get to know one another through ice-breaking and team building games.  

I sat there listening to all the speakers, surrounded by other parents.  Some who’d already sent several kids to college, some new parents like me.  Many were nervous, asking all sorts of questions.  One lady asked, “How can I make my son not procrastinate?”  Lots of heads bobbed as if the same question was running through their minds.  Another said, “I was told that even though we only live 20 minutes away, I’m not to visit or let her come home until Thanksgiving so she can get the Real College Experience.”  It was like they were asking for the prescription for a perfect college life.   

I sat there listening.  I didn’t ask any questions.  It’s not that I’m not nervous.  There are plenty of little worries that I have like, will she be safe?  Will she eat enough?  How will we pay for all of this?  

But I thought back to when I was starting college.  I was a lot like Alyssa, a little shy at first but outgoing once I got to know people.  I had a great time in college, sure there were bumps along the way but I figured it out.  I lived at home for my first 3 years of college.  My mom and I made dinners together, she’d often pick me up for lunch between classes, I still went to all my brother’s hockey games, I just had a lot more homework. I still made new friends, got involved with the ice rink and hockey team on campus, and found my husband to be.   I loved every minute of it.  I don’t think anyone can say I didn’t have the Real College Experience.

There is no prescription to the perfect college experience or perfect parenthood.  If there is anything that I have learned from being a parent for 19 1/2 years, it’s that every kid is so beautifully unique that even if you know what “works” for one, it may totally backfire for another. You make plenty of mistakes and figure it out as you go.  Maybe your kid will benefit from not seeing you until Thanksgiving and maybe not.  And if they are still procrastinating at 18 there is nothing you can do to make them otherwise, they have to figure it out.  And guess what.  They will.

I know both Alyssa and Jess will do great in college!  I’m more concerned with what I’m going to do all day.  For the first time in 15 years, I’ll be home alone!  I guess I’ll just figure it out.   

Me and Alys at Welcome Week

Sunday, June 12, 2016

In the Room Where it Happens

Since February, my husband Jesse and my 11 year old son Ryan, have been obsessed with the Broadway smash hit Hamilton: An American Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda.  They listened to the music non-stop, until they knew every word in the over two hour long recording. At first my daughters (19 and 17) and I were slightly annoyed hearing it 24/7 until we stopped to listen to the story being told, then we were blown away.  

Fast-forward to last Saturday, June 4th.  The day after my son’s 12th birthday.  The last day of our wonderful week-long kick off to summer exploring New York City.  The next day we were heading home to Cleveland.  My husband told us to dress nicely for a fancy lunch to celebrate Ryan’s birthday.  After a delicious sushi meal we walked back toward our hotel.

We headed up 46th street.  Jesse, holding Ryan’s hand, weaved his way through the gathering crowd and stopped at the line forming in front of the Richard Rodgers Theater.  The kids were a little confused.  Wondering why we’d stopped.  

Jesse with his adorable, mischievous smile looked at the kids and exclaimed, “Confession time, here’s what I got...we’re seeing Hamilton.”  


A smile spread across Ryan’s face.

The kids could hardly contain themselves.  It took all their strength to stay composed in line and not freak out.  They knew tickets to Hamilton were hard to get.  It’s not impossible to get tickets, but right now it’s ridiculously expensive- you can either see Hamilton or you can be financially responsible- not both.

From Box A
Our seats in Box A! :)

There are 10 Things You Need to Know

Number 1.  The girls and I were seated in Box A.  Literally right beside the stage.   Ryan and Jesse were seated below us in the orchestra.  I sat closest to the stage because the view is blocked ever so slightly by the huge stage lights and I wanted the girls to have the full view.  But being able to see the actual tears drip down Alexander Hamilton’s face far and away made up for any missed view.    

Number 2.  As soon as Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.) steps onto the stage, the entire theater explodes into applause and cheers, and the applause continues as each actor appears on stage for the first time.  I look at my girls who look as if they might faint from the anticipation.  We’re really doing this.  

Number 3.  I wish I could slow down time.  To take in every detail.  I’m staring at the spotlighted actor in each scene.  But there is so much more.  My eyes are drawn away.  The ensemble dancers lift up young Alexander’s dead mother, not like a deceased body but like a pairs skater in an overhead pose.  I’m captivated.   

Number 4. Almost close enough for us to touch, Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda), George Washington (Christopher Jackson), and the Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs) touch us by staring our way on numerous occasions.  

As narrator of the story, Aaron Burr maintains an orchestrated distance.  

Somewhere in the middle of the first act, Hamilton points his Revolutionary era musket directly at the three of us.  The emotion in Lin’s eyes is almost too much to hold his gaze.  We girls grab each other’s hands in awe.  We do the same when Lafayette interacts with us, and when George Washington looks our way, I know this is crazy but... it’s not Christopher Jackson looking at us, somehow it is George Washington.  We are no longer bystanders in the theater. We are transported 240 years and we, all of us in the theater, cry and laugh as one, we are now a part of the story too.  

Number 5.  The Schuyler sisters were a favorite for the three of us, especially Angelica’s (Renee Elise Goldsberry) Satisfied.  Seeing the entire cast “rewind” for her flashback was like something out of a dream.  

Number 6.   I almost feel like I’m on the field of battle when the canons reverberate right near us.  And when Lafayette leaps off the table during Guns and Ships and begins his rap... there are no words for this, the visual effect is more powerful than my words are capable of describing.

Number 7.  The crowd erupts at the end of Non Stop and from my vantage point, I turn to see the audience. For just a moment I feel as if I’m on stage too, and a chill runs through me.

Number 8.  I’m astonished by Lin-Manuel’s transformation into Hamilton.  He doesn’t seem like he’s acting when he breaks down and cries as Eliza hands him a letter telling him of his friend’s death.  He’s still crying as the scene changes and his next song begins.  He doesn’t have time to compose himself and he’s still wiping tears and trying to regroup halfway through the song.  Is he that amazing an actor, drawing on his own life experiences to make himself repeatedly break down, or is he becoming Alexander Hamilton? How does he do this 7 times a week?  

Number 9.   The end is no secret but the power of seeing it dramatized is too much.  The theater goes black.  The girls and I are sobbing.  The crowd bursts into a standing ovation as the lights return.  The actors bow as one and walk off stage.  Daveed Diggs and Christopher Jackson look into our box for one final time and smile.  Thrilled, the girls wipe their tears, I leave mine.  I look down at Jesse and Ryan.  Lin points directly at Ryan as he walks off stage.  Ryan looks up at my husband, smiles and puts his small arm around him.  

Number 10. I won’t ever forget the story of tonight.  

Jesse and Ryan in front of the stage

Kathy :)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Good Fight

Yesterday, Jess and I were talking about the never ending malicious behaviour of humans toward one another, in particular certain groups or societies against other groups or societies.  She asked me what I thought could be done.  I have no special qualifications to answer a such a question.  I’m simply a human, a mom, a wife, just like any other human living on this planet; from Sydney to Mumbai to Beirut to New York City.  I have the same hopes and dreams as anyone else.  But I’ve learned that when your 19 year old engages you in a discussion you cherish it and keep it going.  So I answered.  

Her main concern:  How do we fight against injustice among two groups of people? Is war/bombing the hell out of a place, the only way to stop the cycle of brutality and terror?  As a peace loving young adult she desperately wanted there to be another answer.  

Hmm.  As I write this, I realize I should have turned the question around for her to answer, to figure out on her own what could be done.  To have her really think about the problem and see what her infinitely creative mind could come up with.  But instead I had to give her my input.

I don’t think there is any one quick solution that will rid us of malicious behaviour of one group toward another.  No matter what is done there will always be people trying to gain power over another group, taking advantage of and using them for their benefit.  Magnifying differences among us to create inequalities.  Bombing or destroying “the enemy” only creates a new generation of  “enemies” to fight later.  

So is it a useless, Sisyphean task, of rolling the boulder uphill everyday only to watch it roll back down?  And do we even know which side is the “right” side?  We choose arbitrarily the side that aligns more with our own ideals and experiences, but there is not one group throughout history that has been totally innocent.  We all have a black mark on our record, so who is the real enemy?  

It is within ourselves.  It is the fears, resentments, jealousies, insecurities, and anger that we hold on to, the black spot within us all that is the real enemy.  Only when we defeat the cancer that is growing within can we look outside.  Is it an infinite task?  Sure, but each day as we strive to rid ourselves of darkness and do good in each moment, loving ourselves and one another, we bring ourselves and our world closer to a new and brighter dawn.    

What are your thoughts?

Kathy :)
Get out and make someone smile today!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A-Z Reflections: Frenzy is Good!

It's the second week of May already and I think I've finally recovered from the A-Z Challenge!  This was my sixth year participating and as usual it was both fun and challenging!  I got the chance to meet a number of great new bloggers and there were a lot of posts I really enjoyed.

Every year I tell myself I'm going to write all my posts in advance and every single year I fail to do that.  Even though pre-writing would make the Challenge much easier for me, I think I've just come to the realization that part of what I love about the Challenge is the writing every day and the kind of frenzied pace that my mind is forced to work at in order to get my posts done.  I don't have time to second guess my topic for the day or to spend the day researching instead of writing, I simply have to go with my gut and write.

This year I had a lot of pictures that I needed to include in my posts to show the place or places I was featuring.  This took a lot of time and I wish I had at least planned out my photos well in advance, as that was more time consuming than the actual writing.  So that's my number one time saver for next year, take all needed pictures and organize them in advance.  

My biggest regret every year though, is that I don't get to visit enough people on the list.  I know there are so many great posts that I just don't have time to see.  The first year I joined, there were only a couple hundred people on the list, but now with over 1300 participants it's practically impossible to get to everyone!  When I come across a theme I like, I want to keep going back to read their next posts which makes getting to new people harder.

I'm thinking maybe next year I'd like to add links to my favorite bloggers' posts of the previous day to try to get the word out for more people to connect and find one another.  Because aside from the writing, the best part of the A-Z Challenge is to meet new people and experience life from their point of view for a moment.

Thanks to all of the Co-hosts this year for running a great Challenge!

Have a great week!

Kathy :)  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

IWSG! Post A-Z Goals

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so that means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group!  The IWSG is a place where we as writer's can express our joys, hopes, fears and most importantly lend encouragement to each other!  This great group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, come join us if you haven't already!

This month, I don't have too many insecurities.  The A-Z Challenge, though difficult, is always inspiring.  I've spent the month focused on writing and by the time "Z" rolls around I feel great!  The trick is to stay inspired the rest of the year and continue spending focused time on writing instead of letting too many other things get in the way!  

The A-Z Challenge for me is always a little bit like New Year's Resolutions.  It makes me think of what I want to accomplish in writing the rest of the year and encourages me to set new goals.  Every April, I learn that I really can spend time every day writing and not have my house fall apart, but by June somehow I seem to forget that!

So this year, I'm hoping to change that.  I've already taken some steps in the right direction.  This Monday, in the time I had been working on my Challenge posts, I took the final steps to send out one of my manuscripts.  And then...I actually hit "send"!  I don't know what will come of it, but at least I took the leap and I'm super excited about it! :)

Hope you all are having an inspired day!

Kathy :)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for the end.

Cleveland is Cooler Than You Think!
All over the media, in tv and movies, Cleveland gets made fun of. In this year's A-Z Challenge, I'm here to show you everything Cleveland has to offer!

Z is for the end

This is the view from my window

I hope you have learned a little bit about how great Cleveland is.  If you're ever in the area let me know, I'd love to show you around!

Doggy Style (It's really not what you think!)

My three kids have taken up the habit of naming all the different positions our beagle Rory gets himself into.  Most of the time even I can't quite figure out why they chose the names they did but I thought it might put a smile on everyone's face to share in this silliness!

Z is for Zzzzzzz

Congratulations on making it to the end! I hope you had a wonderful time doing the Challenge this year and found some great new bloggy friends, I sure did!

Don't forget to check out everyone else on the A-Z list!

Kathy :)