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 :)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y Cleveland?

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!

Y Cleveland?

Lester, the hot dog vendor on 9th street
We've lived in the Cleveland area for almost 10 years now.
But one long weekend last August we decided to take a vacation in Cleveland. We wanted to be able to explore our adopted city like a tourist, not having to rush back home at the end of the day.

We stayed in a hotel right off 4th street. We went to an Indians game and a musical at Playhouse Square. The girls and I went to the One Direction concert, the boys refused and went to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame next door. We visited the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank, the shops at Tower City, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, and just sat at the banks of Lake Erie and watched the waves roll in.

Best of all we met Lester. We were all walking down 9th street when a hot dog vendor saw Ryan and seemed to think he was the coolest kid dressed in his leather jacket, Cleveland hat, and shades. We stopped and talked for a while and he gave Ryan advice on life and a huge handful of candy. Ryan felt he'd made a friend and the next day he and my husband went back to Lester and enjoyed "One of the best hot dogs ever!", in Ryan's words.

To us, Lester represents a kind of Zen spirit of Cleveland. Despite heartbreaking sports losses and less than perfect weather, it's a happiness to be right here in the moment, to be friendly and kind and enjoy the people who cross our paths, to touch other's lives in unexpected ways.

We had a wonderful time and didn't want to head back home when the weekend was over. We were all glad that Cleveland is only a 45 min drive from our house.

So Y Cleveland? 

Because it is unexpected. It is culture, beauty, cuisine and fun all hidden in a city that no one expects to be anything special. That's exactly what makes it so perfect.

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!

Y is for Yoda

One day more of the Challenge, there is.

Today is Friday!  Yay!  Have you ever taken a vacation to your own city?  How has the Challenge been for you?  Have you ever taken a vacation to your own city?

Kathy :)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for X-Mas Ale

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!

X is for X-Mas Ale

Great Lakes Brewery outdoor patio
My husband demonstrating you can drink beer with a straw.
Christmas Ale is one of Great Lakes Brewing Co. most popular seasonal beers. It has a distinct flavor with hints of honey, ginger, and cinnamon and has been a 6 time medal winner of the World Beer Championships (I didn't know that even existed!) 

I'm not much of a beer drinker but when this brew hits the shelves in November all Clevelanders stock up.

Great Lakes Brewing Co. started when two brothers, Patrick and Daniel Conway, wanted to bring back the tradition of brewing beer in Cleveland. 

In the 1800's there had been over 20 breweries in the city but during the next century they consolidated and many of them closed down due to Prohibition. In 1984, the last brewery had closed its doors.  

The Conway brothers felt a brewery would contribute to the revival of the city and they were right. With their focus on quality, sustainability, and fresh local ingredients they have not only created great beers and cuisine but they've also invigorated the surrounding family farms and businesses. The brewery and its pub have helped bring back the area of Cleveland known as Ohio City and made it a destination worth visiting.

Here's a link to a cool video on the company if you want to learn more.

Great Lakes Brewery History and Philosophy

Cleveland Brewing History
Great Lakes Brewing Co.

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!

X is for Xtra Cute

Have you tried a Great Lakes Brewery beer? Hope you're having a great week! Don't forget to check out everyone else on the A-Z list!

Kathy :)