Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Monetary Maneuverings Lead to Savvy Savings!

My dad and I have a lot in common. The good (strong work ethic) and the bad (serious funkapotomus issues). Recently I have channeled my inner Walt in the frugality department, and while some of you might think being cheap thrifty is a bad trait, I’m feeling pretty damn proud of myself for my monetary maneuverings. After you read of my recent conquests you too might see my frugality as a strength.


I’ve always shown tendencies toward tightfistedness conservative spending. For example, I’m one of those people who takes the gardener’s catalog 100% guaranteed plants promise seriously. I received more than a dozen free new goodies to start my garden with this spring. I’m a big fan of Groupon and Living Social for airport parking, park admission, and movie theaters, and I search coupon websites for every new online retailer I consider doing business with. There’s almost always a discount or free shipping offer to be had. Finally, I only buy clothes on sale and I’m flummoxed (a word I’ve always wanted to use) as to why anyone would pay full price. While those are all general examples, I have been on a particularly hot streak of late.

It all started with a Midas coupon for a free oil change that led to four new tires. I knew I needed tires, but I certainly didn’t want to pay Midas prices. So when my guy told me the price, I just happened to be sitting at the computer and was able to tell him how much they really cost. He said he’d call me back. He did, and he met the lower price. Rather than immediately moving forward with the work, I pressed my luck and told him, “Throw in a pair of windshield wipers, installed, and you’ve got a deal.” He said he’d ask his manager. Deal done.

Then there was the Sear's charge for $58.27 for a replacement filter for a refrigerator we don’t own. To be fair we did own it for the day or two it took to be delivered, at which point we found we couldn’t get it through the kitchen doorway. Anyway, when we bought the fridge we signed up for automatic filter replacements and never thought to cancel that service. When the filter arrived in my mailbox a couple weeks ago, I wrote on it “Return to sender” and stuck it back in the mailbox. Then the credit card bill arrived.

I called Sear's and was told that the part had been shipped to me FedEx, and without a tracking number, I had no proof that I had actually returned it. I explained that I assumed it was sent by U.S. Mail (given its arrival in the mailbox) and so that’s how I returned it. “Well we haven’t received it ma’am. Maybe give it more time?" I called again a week later. Still no part, but they’d look for it. And I was to trust that they would really look for it, just like I was asking them to trust that I’d really returned it. We were playing the trust game.

I wrote a letter. It was a very good letter. I referenced my loyalty as a Sear's customer. A day after I mailed the letter (hence, before they could have received it), I had an email from Sear's letting me know the $58.27 was coming off my bill. Nice.

Just today I enjoyed a $50 savings on an American Airlines flight I’m taking to California in early July. Why? Because several months ago I found a cheaper price on one of those travel websites when a booking flight for Ian. Despite the rigmarole involved with proving the difference, I persevered and not only secured the cheaper price directly from the airline, but was also given a code for $50 off my next flight. Sweet, right?

And then there was my dad’s Rusty Wallace 8-lap race car driving experience scheduled for this Saturday. I had found the offer on Groupon and given it to him for Christmas. Unfortunately, just last week my dad was diagnosed with degenerative back disease and he's in serious pain. This is not the time one wants to speed around a race track at 200 miles an hour. A phone call to Rusty’s people, a phone call to dad’s doctor, and a live chat with Groupon and I have my money back. Well sorta. I have Groupon bucks waiting for me.

I’m telling you all this for three reasons:

  1. Because I haven't had anything else to write about in a long time,
  2. So you’ll think I’m really awesome, and 
  3. To show you that it takes fairly little effort to save some serious dough. 
When I summarized my savings savvy for Rob, I suggested he reward me with a shore house. Unfortunately, it looks like I haven't saved quite enough for a down payment YET. Just give me a little more time…


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I Can Be Vanna!

I’m not the best barometer for sexism, probably because I have a number of shortcomings as a feminist. For example, I don’t have a problem with being “appreciated” for my physical features. This is partly due to the fact that, being in my mid-40s, I’ll take any compliment I can get, and also because, in the past, before I was married, I was known to acknowledge attractive male specimens.

So, if there’s a scale for feminism, with 1 being “you are an embarrassment to your gender” and 10 being “I refuse to even acknowledge that men and women have different body parts,” I’m a solid 5, or maybe a 6. My feminist beliefs include:

  • Equal pay for equal work.
  • Equal opportunities.*
  • Equal respect and consideration. 
  • All women should have the choice to do with their lives and bodies what they please.
  • Mom doesn’t stay home and raise the kids because she’s the woman. If she stays home and raises the kids, it’s because she wants to. 
  • Women around the world shouldn't be abused, bought and sold, subject to genital mutilation, or worse. Of course, no human being should be victimized in such unspeakable ways.
  • History needs to acknowledge the contributions of women.
  • Every woman is beautiful, and Barbie dolls shouldn’t be the standard we aspire to.
  • No little girl should be told that she can’t do something "because she is just a girl."

Frankly, I would hope all women agree with those points.

On the other hand, I have some feelings that radical feminists (a broad term for which not all of these apply) might be displeased with, including:

  • *Equal opportunity based on qualifications—don’t give me a job just because I’m a woman and you have to meet your quota (particularly true in the STEM fields). Give me a job because I deserve it. 
  • A man complimenting you on your appearance is not despicable (unless he’s creepy and leering at you lasciviously; and/or he’s your boss or coworker and he acknowledges your legs and not your job performance).
  • You can’t hate men for being men. 
  • You can wear skirts and dresses and still believe in women’s rights.
  • I’m not offended when God is referred to as “He.” 
  • Women are no more superior to men then men are to women.
  • Giving little girls dolls and dressing them in pink is not anti-feminist, as long as we’re also giving them Lincoln Logs and letting them wear whatever they want to when they’re old enough to dress themselves.

The point of all this is to say that I’m not one to quickly cry sexism at every perceived gender slight; therefore, when I say I was recently the victim of sexist behavior, I mean it.

Last week I attended a creativity and innovation workshop in which we formed teams and had to come up with a product or service, create a logo and prototype, and ultimately present to the rest of the group in a one-minute elevator pitch. I should add that I was one of only 3 women in a room filled with men, and the only woman on my team.

Appropriately, the category is "Around the House"
When it came time to present our idea—which I had proposed in the first place—one of my teammates strongly suggested, more than once, that I should be part of the presentation because “you’re a woman in a room full of men and you’ll get their attention.” To add insult to injury he then said, “You can be Vanna.”

Whew. For a minute there I thought he was going to actually encourage me to speak. Thankfully all he wanted was for me to hold the poster board and smile.

I’ve been asked how I reacted to this Neanderthal (who was in his 50s), and I’m ashamed to say I responded with nothing more than a “Ha.” Yes, I blew it. After the fact I thought of a number of appropriate comebacks, including:

  • Too bad I didn’t wear my stilettos and a shorter skirt today. 
  • After I play Vanna, can I get you a cool beverage and fawn over you?
  • What decade is this? 
  • No wonder more women don’t go into STEM careers if it’s filled with assholes like you. 

Women, I’d love to hear of your encounters with sexism, and men, I’d be interested to know if you think I’m overreacting, or if the guy really blew it. I should add that I don’t think he meant to offend; the problem is that he didn’t “think,” period. And that behavior is so ingrained in some men that they don’t even recognize that it’s wrong.

Share your stories, and suggest even better comebacks so if when it happens again, I won’t let the guy off the hook so easily.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Chin Up: A Change is Coming!

It's been three days since Villanova's big win in the NCAA Basketball Championship. I watched most of the games this season and while I still can't figure out what qualifies as a foul and when it earns a foul shot or just possession, I'm really starting to enjoy the sport. Especially when they're nail biters, which seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Although to be fair, I bite my nails a lot, regardless of the situation.

I bring up the basketball game for two reasons:
  1. It provided me with a day off (and another one tomorrow!) and the opportunity to write a well-overdue blog post.
  2. Ian told us before the Oklahoma game that he would enroll at Villanova if they won the championship. 
Should I hold him to it?
Some of you are aware that a wrinkle/wrench has been thrown into what was going to be a fairly easy decision where college is concerned. Along with Villanova, Ian was accepted into William & Mary's Joint Degree Programme (that's how they spell it in the U.K.) with the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. St. Andrews is situated on the coast, with beaches and a popular golf course (an understatement for anyone who knows golf). People also have cool accents and there are lots of pubs. And MacPherson is Scottish. The school is pretty damn good, too, and he'd earn a BA, International Honors, from both universities. And did I mention that this programme only enrolls about 20 students per year? 

His acceptance letter included a handwritten note from the director: "Your passion for economics and travel make you a natural for our programme. Join us." 

Well, damn. Didn't see that coming. Seriously. Ian didn't either. It's like when he made the Silvertones as a freshman. "Wait, what? Are you sure?" 

This is one of those situations where the advice you receive completely depends on the individual. Those who have put kids through college and incurred student loans say "Villanova." Those like my sister who believe "the best" opportunity is always worth paying for say "Scotland." We're saying, let's go talk to the folks at W & M, crunch the numbers, make a pro/con list, and then decide on Villanova. Obviously the kid can't go wrong either way, and this is a hell of a nice "problem" to have. It's just that I'd really like a shore house some day. 

I didn't start this post with the goal of bragging about my son's opportunities. My objective was to brag about what an awesome young man he's become.

Some of you have known me long enough (we really only have to go back a few short years) to remember when I was forever frustrated by this kid. Smart. Yes. Hard working. No. Funny. Yes. Willing to share that personality in performance, writing, or on late night talk shows? No. Ambitious? No. Easy-going? Yes. Passionate about FIFA? Yes. Passionate about anything else? No.

I went crazy with his attitude, which was best summed up in his own words: "If it's not fun, why should I do it?" Dude, you're talking to a woman who feels guilty if she's having fun instead of working. If I hadn't given birth to him, I'd wonder if he's adopted. 

Recognizing that many most parents, at one time or another (or daily) want to wring their teenager's neck for their crappy attitude, I will say this: It will pass. The kid who commits to nothing but video games will find his or her passion. And it just might involve developing video games, which I happen to know makes for a pretty good living. May I recommend Villanova's Computer Engineering program?

I know Rob and I are lucky. We've watched Ian's transformation take place. He still loves FIFA, but he's also passionate about economics and societal issues. He recommends to me books he's read and enjoyed for school. He and Rob watch "Meet the Press" together (yes, it's for a class, but it's a class he really enjoys even though he wouldn't label it "fun."). He's working harder than ever and challenging himself academically when most seniors have written off the last few months of their high school education. His sense of humor continues to light up a room, and he's still willing to play Bananagrams when begged asked. Our teenage son seems to like us, and the feeling is mutual.

Now before you accuse me of patting myself on the back for having a great kid, let me say that Rob and I really had nothing to do with it. It just happened. Or more likely, his girlfriend Brooke is primarily responsible for his maturing. After all, it still takes five requests from Mom before Ian does what's requested, whereas Brooke sees immediate results.

This leads me to just one suggestion: If your teen's evolution is taking longer than you'd like, consider finding a nice boy or girl to help move things along. If he or she has big brown eyes, that's a bonus.

Good luck!


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Like a Half-Eaten Donut, Better than Nothing!

I have been a bit of a mess lately. Literally and figuratively. Last week I went to a hair cut appointment and when the receptionist took my coat, I discovered I had fresh brownie mix dribbled down the front of it. And earlier that day I totally missed a conference call for work. The reminder popped up on my computer and I didn't recognize it so I dismissed it. Totally unlike me. I need a vacation. Somewhere that I can't get my hands on brownie mix or cookie dough.

Despite my above average ability to ramble, there are many occasions on which I start writing a blog post and only get a paragraph or two into it and realize I don't know what else to say. (See the example above.) Or I can't come up with a witty or fitting close. So today, because I slept like sh*t last night, I've decided that rather than try to write a complete post, I will pull together a few of the posts I've left unfinished for an eclectic look at the inner workings of my mind. Just what you were hoping for on this beautiful, spring-like day! So here goes it:

2/12/16: If you heard alarms going off on Friday night, it wasn't another car getting broken into. It was my hype meter. It's no coincidence that it was also the Night of Bruce.

My husband is an enormous Bruce Springsteen fan. Which is probably part of the problem. As I believe I've mentioned in an earlier post, familiarity breeds contempt. I have detested Neil Young for 20 years thanks to a coworker who played him 8-hours a day, 5-days a week. It's not really Neil's fault. Technically, as a singer-songwriter fan I should like him. But that's what overexposure can do to a person.

Every time I get in Rob's car, he's got the satellite radio tuned to the all-Bruce station. So, where before I generally enjoyed his music, I'm getting a little tired of it. But the music itself isn't as bad as the pre-concert buildup. I've been to one Bruce concert. He's an amazing performer, but I don't like waiting for the divas to appear on stage and I don't like big concert venues, so when it came time for this particular concert I took a pass. Not worth the big bucks and the finagling involved with securing the almighty ticket.

12/19/15: We know that fashion is cyclical. Every few decades, someone decides that bell bottoms, leg warmers, high waisted pants, tall boots, skinny jeans, shoulder pads, Bermuda shorts and pantsuits should be reintroduced to society. Even hairstyles come and go and then come back again. Except for perms. I'm still waiting for perms to make a comeback.

Toys tend to have more staying power than perms fashion. Elmo has been popular since he joined Sesame Street in the 80s. Barbie refuses to die. Matchbox cars still have their place. Every home has Jenga, Monopoly and Scrabble. And don't get me started on Legos. Did you know the company was started in 1932? [I have no idea where I was going with this post...]

12/13/15PJs and Down Time
I know a few people who wring the life out of each and every day. I know several others who never want the fun to end when it comes to social occasions. Then there are people like me (at least I hope there are others) who look forward to pajamas and bed time as much as--if not more than--a night out on the town. This obviously can be problematic when ones spouse and friends fall into different categories.

What's important for "those people" to understand, is that my desire to be in bed versus spending more time with them is not personal. In fact, I'm pretty sure if Jesus himself showed up at my house I'd only be able to give him a few hours and then I'd need to retire to my room, slip under the covers, and curl up in the fetal position. This is fairly common characteristic of us introverts. We get our energy from alone time, versus feeding off the presence of others.

I suppose on some level I consider bed time my reward for having made it through the day. After work, there's nothing I want more than to come home, change into my p.j.s and settle in for the evening. If you want to put me in a bad mood, ask me to run an errand after I've mentally and emotionally called it a day. Ask my kids how well I handle that.
Think I could pull it off?

9/27/15: [Ironically, this could have been written last Friday.] I regained a touch of my youth on Friday. Thank God for hair color! Now if only it lasted longer than a few weeks. Part of me is considering adopting that platinum silver/purplish look that Pink and Kelly Osbourne are sporting these days. At least when the color fades I'd have the right color coming in.

Almost as bad as the skunk stripe I sport every six weeks or so, is the process required to fix it. Two freakin' hours at the hair salon is not my idea of fun. Sitting still that long is torture, and there's something about the environment that drives me nuts. In fact, I came up with a list of "10 Things about the Hair Salon."
  1. The person with the loudest voice also is the one carrying on the most inane conversation. 
  2. There's always one stylist who thinks she has to talk to you throughout your entire appointment, leaving you screaming inside.
  3. And even if the stylist doesn't babble the entire time, you still have to at least start with small talk. I abhor small talk. 
  4. Putting on a cape, slapping some thick paint on your head and leaving you to stare at yourself in the mirror for an hour-plus is cruel. You find wrinkles and lines you never knew you had. And inevitably I'm there with no makeup on. 
  5. Speaking of thick paint, no matter how many times I remind them that my skin stains easily, I always leave the salon with a ring around my hair line. So I end up wearing a baseball cap for two days to hide my forehead. 
  6. There's always some customer talking about her horse, or her vacation to Bora Bora, or the limo ride to see Bruce.
[Obviously I couldn't come up with 10 things...]

And finally: 
2/10/15: [This still applies one year later.]
Yesterday was Abby's 14th birthday and I couldn't be prouder of my not-so-little girl. I have to confess that it takes a good bit of self control to not brag about her ad nauseam. Finding that fine line between "how sweet" and "enough already" is definitely a major challenge in the age of social media. I figure if I only post photos of Abby's work it's not really bragging, it's more like show and tell. But how do I write a blog post about Abby for her birthday without going overboard? I don't have to. It's my blog and I can say whatever I want. Insert smiley emoticon here.

When my kids were elementary school age, I had one recurring wish for them, and it wasn't the standard "may they be happy and healthy." Instead I wished that they'd turn out like Richard, Ryder or Bridget, or Kevin or Laura Jean. These former babysitters and/or neighbors/friends, were the gauge by which I was going to measure my children. Why these five? Because their qualities were the same qualities that I hoped my kids would one day possess. Respectful, kind, hard working, intelligent, involved, friendly, happy, and NORMAL. Sometimes super kids have everything except that normal element. The one that allows them to make friends and fit in and get a job someday (if that's your thing).

Well, I'm happy to say that Abby (and Ian, too) have lived up to the example of those former youth, now young adults. I realize that parenting experts generally advise against comparing your kids to others, but I'd say it was less about using them as a measuring stick for my children, and more about providing a parenting goal for me. When all we hear about are wayward youth, I needed a beacon to follow that could show me it was possible to get it right.

That's all for now folks. I have at least a dozen others I'll share with you when I can't find the time or energy, or the right words, to write a complete post. Enjoy this beautiful day!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Kids are More than Alright

My increasing prudishness is evident in the TV shows I'm comfortable (or not) watching, the clothes I'm okay (or not) with my daughter wearing, and the skin I'm uptight about showing. I have referenced my issues in a couple blog posts over the years, from "I've Been Thinking," in which I wondered about parents who let their young teenage daughters go out in barely there dresses, to "Saying Goodbye to Sandra Dee" in which I had a small hissy fit about our high school's production of Grease three years ago. Given my well-documented history of serving as the morality police, my reaction to the high school's production of Rent this past weekend is even more surprising.

I thought it was fantastic.

For those of you not familiar with the musical (1996), which was also made into a movie in 2005, Rent tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City's East Village under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. Its characters are gay, straight, clean, addicted, living, dying, thriving and barely surviving. It's depressing as hell, and this incredibly mature group of Strath Haven High School students pulled it off beautifully.

I had heard good things about the performances, but was prepared to ask (not for the first time) what the hell Shank, our beloved musical producer/director, was thinking when he chose this show. Of course, it should be noted that his first choice was Company, which is even less age-appropriate than Rent. Shank never was one to play it safe, but he obviously knew his students and he knew what they could handle. He also knew better than to promote it to elementary school kids, which was one of my major beefs with Grease.

After opening night, someone posted a "must-see," rave review on NextDoor.com, a terrific app/website for all things local. But because nothing is ever without controversy on this site (i.e., deer hunting, new traffic circles, or the value of a Sharpie with a missing cap), at least one member had a negative reaction to the recommendation to see the show:
"The idea that children are involved with a show about I.V. drugs, homosexuality, death from AIDS, handcuffed girls getting paid at a stripper club makes me sick! They are too young to understand the depth of Rent and don't need to deal with that subject matter at their ages. Half of you don't even know it's a spin off of La Boheme. The human brain isn't fully developed until age 25. How do you expect teens to handle such material at their ages?
It is inappropriate for children to perform or see Rent in any version as the theme is not for children. Please be a responsible parent and do not allow your children to see the show. Rent is a great show for adults. Take them to see La Boheme instead."
Well, let's just say I bet this poor woman wishes she had never expressed her opinion publicly. There was a bit of a backlash After the last performance, a week later, she finally said: "This is my opinion. I would appreciate if this discussion would stop."

A.J. B. killed it as Roger
But, anyway, I was extremely impressed. Unlike in Grease where the maturity--or lack thereof--of certain students took a fairly innocent show (as compared to Rent) to an almost indecent place, the students in Rent seemed to understand the importance of the message they were sending. Liza B., the young lady in the role of Mimi, the main "handcuffed girl at a stripper club" never took the part to a tawdry, "let's have fun being naughty" place, but rather presented us with a broken shell of a woman consumed by addiction and the physical and emotional price she pays. Similarly, Ethan S., the young man who played Angel, a cross-dresser, managed to avoid creating a caricature or delivering an over-the-top, "look-at-me running around in heels and a dress" performance that many teenage boys would have presented.

Basically, there was nothing gratuitous that turned the production from one of value to one of indecency.

Kate D. as Maureen
And while I'm recognizing these specific
performances for their maturity, I also have to applaud the students for simply wowing me with their acting and singing chops. Kate D., who played the character of Maureen, delivered a stunningly strong performance in her song/scene "Over the Moon". And A.J. B., who played Roger, gave me "goosies" (as J Lo would say) with his singing. I could go on and on. The talent in that cast (typical of Strath Haven) was impressive.

The only disappointing moment came at the very end, after the actors left the stage and lights came on. That's when I turned to Ian, who had sat next to me for the performance, and told him he would have been amazing in the show. And then I cried, informing him he'd broken my heart by never allowing me the joy of seeing him on stage. It was one of my finest--and most shameful--mom-guilt moments.
Sorry, kid.

Perhaps there's a theatre production in your our future at Villanova?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Next?

Despite not being Catholic, I gave something up for Lent this year. Nothing big, just my hopes and dreams.

I dropped my musical theatre class, in effect dropping out of Villanova's theatre program. I loved it, so I'm seriously sad to have made this decision. You may be wondering, "Then, why the hell did you drop out?"

Simple answer: I felt guilty---a condition recognized by millions of firstborns and children with Jewish mothers (or so I've been told). I was also feeling increasingly depressed---the funkapotomus had been on an extended vacation, but alas, he's back--- and this class was the only thing I could point to that might be causing the blues. Of course, in retrospect, it could also be the goddamn winter.

As I mentioned in my last post, the amount of work required for my Musical Theatre course was staggering. I don't know if this is a reflection of the quality of academics at Villanova, or my inability to effectively manage homework after being out of school for 25 years. It was only one course, but I was spending nearly all of my free time writing: initial responses to musicals, responses to journal articles about those musicals, lyrics analysis, music analysis, etc. My children were not phased by my "absence," quite likely they didn't notice. I'm not sure they'd notice if I was lying unconscious on the kitchen floor, but that's a post for another time.

No, the only person to notice the amount of time I was spending on homework was my husband, who apparently wants to spend time with me, which I should be thankful for. So that guilt combined with my own self-questioning---"Why the hell am I doing this? I don't care about the credits or a degree. This is a crazy amount of work..."---led me to throw in the proverbial towel last Wednesday morning, before my evening class. And because I'm a weirdo and I didn't want the professor to think I was quitting because I hadn't done my homework, I was sure to turn in my assignment. I think it was some of my best work. Not surprisingly, she hasn't sent it back to me with a grade.

To make myself feel better about giving up my hopes and dreams, I've come up with this list of the top 10 things I can do with the time I was previously devoting to class:
  1. Catch up on my Acme Monopoly game pieces. I sense that this is my year to win.
  2. Ruminate on the fact that Ian is going to college next year and Abby spends all her time in her room, and I'm basically no longer needed. Except by my husband and parents, which I tell myself is nice.
  3. Come up with new excuses for not going to the gym.
  4. Take an official count of the number of books the dog has eaten.
  5. Finish Abby's elementary school scrapbook.
  6. Build my collection of cheap wine.
  7. Catch up on American Idol (yes, I'm the one)
  8. Determine the best wireless carrier and exactly how my new health insurance plan works.
  9. Keep up with the latest dumb-ass thing Trump has said so I can write a book about the absurdity of a reality show colliding with real life, and what it means for the future of the free world.
  10. Wash my pee-proof panties since I only have 10 pair to recycle.
I'm also open to suggestions. You know I have this whole "possibilities" theme going on, so I'll consider pretty much anything. Except eating vegetables. That's still off the table. Literally.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Considering the Possibilities

A few years ago my friend Emily adopted a New Year tradition wherein she selects one word that
summarizes her goals, resolutions and ideal state of mind for the year.

Last year I joined Emily in this endeavor, and I choose the word "perspective." As in, "Let's keep things in perspective before we have a melt down, or let's consider someone else's perspective before automatically assuming they're an idiot." I wrote my word down in red ink on a small piece of paper, taped it to my computer and promptly forgot all about it. Ironically, the next time my written reminder caught my eye, I noticed that the ink had faded to the point where it was almost unreadable. I guess you could say I had lost my perspective.

Like we do every year, the kids and Rob and I celebrated this New Year's Eve with Emily, her family, and several friends. Because we're getting old and a little pathetic, by 11 p.m. there was a good deal of moaning about being tired and wanting to call it a night. In an effort to save the evening and keep us awake till the ball dropped, Emily handed us each a piece of paper and instructed us to come up with our word for the year. Rob chose "Hillary," not because he's a fan, but because he thinks this year will be all about her. He also went off on some tangent about the concept of "relevance." Obviously he didn't get the idea behind the one word challenge.

I decided on the word "possibilities." It came to me while we were in Arizona over Christmas. I found myself thinking a lot about the possibilities for my next stage of  life. With Ian heading to college next year and Abby only three years behind him, the door is wide open for Rob and me to make some exciting changes (that don't involve choosing new spouses). Like moving to Arizona! (We've already ruled that out.) Or maybe buying one of the swanky new condos they're going to build in downtown Media. Or maybe we'll move to Wilmington, NC where I can work part-time at UNC and spend the rest of my time reading books on Wrightsville Beach. So many possibilities, so much fun to think about them!

For the more immediate future, I've been considering the possibilities of what I might do with my increasing amount of free time. With the kids needing (and wanting) less of me, there are opportunities for me to do the things I couldn't do when they were little. Right now, pursuing my love of theatre is top on the list. As many of you know, I took a step toward this possibility by registering for Villanova's "Graduate Certificate in Practical Theatre." I figured it was worth $50 a course to hone any skills I might possess and see if I have what it takes to make it in the cut throat world of community theatre.

In the fall I took my first course: Principles of Acting. And I loved it. I was a nervous wreck before every class performance (and there was one practically each week), but I really did enjoy it and I came out of it with an audition piece to use if I ever get up the courage to actually try out for a play. This semester I'm taking Musical Theatre, which is the type of performing I grew up on. I'm not sure what I expected, but I think it's fair to say it's more than I bargained for.

First there was the solo performance the very first night of class, which was repeated the second night of class the following week. Then I saw the syllabus, which includes:
  • Initial Response (IR) papers for every musical we view and every related journal article we're assigned to read (basically one a week). 
  • A practitioner report with a PechaChuka presentation
  • Character, music and lyrics analysis for each solo we perform (there's at least two of them)
  • "8 Counts of 8" in which each student is required to teach the class a dance routine
Did I mention there's dancing for about an hour of each three-hour class? Have I mentioned that I can't dance to save my life? 

Did I mention that my first IR was seven pages long and took no less than 7 hours of my time between the viewing and the writing? 

And my practitioner report, in addition to the Pokemon-sounding presentation, requires an MLA or Chicago format bibliography. Do you want to guess how long it's been since I wrote a bibliography?

And did I mention I can't dance? Nor can I effectively carry a tune when I'm a nervous wreck. 

My loving husband asked a couple valid questions the night before my first class (before I even knew about the time commitment/workload). He asked, "Isn't a hobby supposed to be something you enjoy? If it stresses you out and overwhelms you, doesn't that defeat the purpose?" 

Damn. He's always got something insightful to say. I hate that. 

Part of the problem lies in my unwillingness to fail or look bad. You'd think for as often as I embarrass myself in my blog posts (can everyone say protective panties?), I would be immune to the fear of humiliation. Nope. When it comes to the things I choose to invest my time in, I'm either really good at them or I quit. That translates into my need to get an A on every paper, and deliver above-average performances in the singing and dancing categories. That translates into weekends lost to homework and fingernails lost to anxiety. I can't just do what I need to do to pass the class and move on. I'm not hardwired that way. 

After spending my snowy weekend tied to the kitchen table, viewing Showboat, reading, and writing, I asked myself more than once if this is really what I want to do. It's not that I detest the work (I actually enjoy the musicals and don't mind the written response), but do I enjoy it enough to dedicate so much of my time to it? Shouldn't I be binge-watching something on Netflix? Or playing Wordbrain? Or at least reading a book for pleasure? It's not like I'm dying to earn another master's degree or want to make a career change. In fact, this level of commitment is exactly why I dropped out of an NYU PhD program 20 years ago. I don't know how to balance the goals I set with having a life. They're probably not supposed to be separate, are they?

A couple Saturdays ago, my friend Andria from church brought together a group of women for the one-word experience. As we gathered in smaller groups to talk in detail about our word and what it might mean for us, one of the older, wiser women responded to my "possibilities" with something completely unexpected. She said something like this:
"You may have to consider the possibility that you can't do everything you want to do, or that it's not right for you, or that you might actually fail or not live up to your own expectations." 
Wow. In my mind, the possibilities are all positive and shiny with rainbows on the horizon. Are there possibilities of failure or disappointment? 

You may think my wise friend was being a Debbie Downer, but I found her comments brought me some relief. I am allowed to fail, to change my mind, to come to the realization that something just isn't for me. Maybe the possibilities for my life don't involve theatre and moving to NC, but instead call for me to be a spokesperson for Icon undies, or to travel the world as first mate on a 72 foot yacht. Who knows? 

I've really rambled through this one, haven't I? I suppose the topic was better suited for my personal journal, but part of me is looking for your advice or encouragement. To theatre or not to theatre? To move on, or establish deeper roots right where I am?

I'd also love to know if you have a word of your own. I'm finding it's helpful to have a partner or a group of supporters to keep me focused. So please share if you're interested in playing along. It's not too late to join us!