A night to be thankful

Absolutely beautiful night for sitting on the porch, listening to the Tigers and doing some journaling. The frogs and crickets are serenading me. It’s early August, not too hot, and I’d be happy to sit here for many, many days.

A beautiful night on the porch

The house behind me is pretty quiet – I can hear Max and Maggie playing a game together in the basement, laughing quietly and enjoying time together. Another few weeks and they’ll be heading out, back to college, and I’ll miss the sounds of them laughing…. or fighting, or singing, or all of the sounds I’ve gotten used to hearing again since they moved back in waaaaay back in March, when the pandemic was just starting and we weren’t sure how long the interruptions would be. Of course I’ll be worried about them, and I still hate that they’re going, but they have leases on apartments, and most of their classes will be online, and so I have to trust they’ll be okay. Ugh.

Jeanne went to sleep a little early, she had a long, busy day. Some exciting things happening for her that’ll be announced soon enough. Yesterday evening the four of us took the dogs for a nice walk as the sun was setting, walking around the neighborhood. We were laughing, watching FlipFlop pull Max on his skateboard (which he LOVES to do!), and Sneakers was pulling on Maggie because she wanted to chase them… as we followed behind Jeanne said “Aw man… we aren’t going to get many more nights like these” and I knew she was right. The kids will be moving out soon, and who knows when or even if they’ll move back in. Sneakers is not doing well – she’s almost 16 and had a good life, but probably won’t be with us much longer, so we’re really trying to enjoy the time we have with her now. Even if you take the pandemic out of the equation, the constant shifting of sand beneath our feet will be bringing us to a new place again soon.

Can we take the pandemic out of the equation? I mean, all we can do is be as careful as possible, and wait. Wear our masks, wash our hands, Hope people do their best, and hope for a vaccine. And do our best to manage the change that keeps coming as time drifts on, gently dragging us along (and sometimes not gently at all).

Thing is, every time I can remember thinking “Aw man, this is the end of an era” in our family, or with friends, later I also found myself having nights like last night, or tonight, once again, where I wound up thinking “This is beautiful. I’m a lucky, lucky man.” So, even though everything is so up in the air right now, I have faith that as much as I love tonight, I’ll have more moments like this again in the future. Hopefully I’ll remember to take the time to recognize them.

For now, though, I’m going to enjoy the back-and-forth of this ridiculous ball game as the Tigers keep finding ways to give away the lead, and listen to the frogs and crickets reminding me to just breathe, and savor.

SNOW DAY!

Boy, we had a nice winter storm on Saturday. I mean, it wasn’t anything to write home about, in terms of winter storms – we’ve certainly had bigger, snowier, scarier, but this one was… Nice. (For me, anyway. I apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced by it.)

Since we already had rehearsal off for the day, Jeanne and I decided to just have a relaxing Snow Day, and almost the whole day was in pajamas and on the couch. We watched a little TV, we played Word Chums (it’s like Scrabble, and its on our phones), we did some napping and some reading. I’m nearing the end of The Beautiful Ones, the autobiography that Prince was working on with Dan Piepenbring when he passed away. It’s a moving and insightful look at the artist and his life, but it was barely begun when he passed, and so what Piepenbring was able to do with the book in his attempt to honor Prince’s wishes is lovely.

So, we did those things, I made some fantastic BLT sandwiches, I worked on my script for the show I’m directing (900 Miles to International Falls by Annie Martin), we had fun speaker-phone conversations with both kids and snuggled with the dogs. At one point we were all curled up on the couch. Jeanne was at one end, with FlipFlop (Schnoodle, curled up on her feet). I looked up from my book, took a drink of my coffee (decaf, almond milk), and petted Sneakers (Cockapoo, curled up on my legs). As I stroked her head, she let out one of the longest, most contented sighs I’ve ever heard. I nodded my head and said “I agree, Sneaks. Me too.”

We did wander out of the house in the evening: The Sun Theatre is a 10 minute walk from home into downtown Williamston, and their one screen was showing Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the Tom Hanks movie about Mr. Rogers. It was not at all what I was expecting, and we both enjoyed it a lot.

Snow Day. A little oasis of time. It was wonderful. In the craziness of life – running a theatre, directing a show, wrapping my brain around all the doctor stuff for my kidney transplant evaluation, paying bills and putting out the many metaphorical fires that we all find ourselves dealing with – having that day was a gift. Thanks, Universe, for the chance to catch my breath – and for the reminder that stopping to catch our breath once in a while is really, really important.

I hope you, if you’ve read this far, get a chance to slow down and catch your breath soon. In fact, if I can be bold – I’d encourage you to go ahead and MAKE the time. I think I’ll be doing it more often.

“Simplify, slow down, be kind. And don’t forget to have art in your life – music, paintings, theater, dance, and sunsets.” – Eric Carole

Thankful

Taking a minute to acknowledge and thank the universe for all the wonderful things in my life.

With Thanksgiving just happening, and then so many wonderful things around it, it’s easy to take for granted the things I have. Sometimes I just need to look around and, to quote Kurt Vonnegut’s Uncle Alex, say out loud “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

It was so great to have the kids back home with Jeanne and I for a couple days. Just talking and hanging out and eating and playing games and watching them play with the dogs. Loved it. Going to sleep that night with everyone in the the house, knowing they were safe and home and happy, it was pretty terrific. And soon we’ll do it again for a few days for Christmas.

Plus we had a wonderful Opening week for A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show at the theatre, which is just lovely and so engaging and such beautiful storytelling, it gets me every single time, and watching packed houses fall in love with it is both inspiring and affirming.

Then we had a fantastic “Giving Tuesday” Play Reading Marathon, where we read a seasons worth of plays onstage in a day, 12 hours of readings, all open to the public, and we had so many people stop by for a play or two, or three, and a big group who stayed all day to see five or six plays! It was amazing, people came and went all day as their schedule allowed, and it felt like such a day of communion and togetherness and magic as we shared and discussed six wildly different pieces. Truly it was a humbling thing. Someone asked “Did you ever imagine this when you started this place 14 years ago?!” and the question AND answer got me all choked up because, no, we hoped but had no idea if it would work. Tuesday was pretty damned great.

And now I’m getting ready for the National New Play Network annual Showcase of New Plays – a weekend of staged readings and chatting about new plays and the challenges, joys and pitfalls of producing them with people from all over the country. This is going to be fun.

So much to be grateful for.

I hope you’re able to look around this weekend and find the same things in your life! ❤️

A fun flashback…..

Little timeline things pop up now and then and say “Hey, remember this?” and it’s fun to look back at old writings I did here.  Sometimes I forget that I’ve been writing this for over 14 years.

13 years ago I posted about a nice October week we were having in 2006, including some fun times in the yard with family.  This bit cracked me up:

Today was a nice day; family time, some work around the house, Jeanne’s sister Jackie and her family came over and we played a bunch of catch, and enjoyed an unbelievably beautiful October afternoon. I’m absolutely exhausted, from the whole week, but also from racing my son’s Razor scooter around the driveway with the kids and my brother-in-law Joe. (Zipping around the circular driveway were two scooters, a couple of motorized kid-sized jeeps, and a couple of bicycles.)

For the record: those scooter things are a blast.

Also, for the record; it’s been a while since I rode on anything like one. Witness the following exchange, which is pretty close to accurate, if you allow for the whole “my mind was scrambled so I might not get all the details right” part:

Dad?! Are you okay?
Yes, Maggie, I’m fine.
You kinda crashed!
Yes. Yes I did.
At least you missed the tree.
It doesn’t feel like I missed the tree.
Are you just going to lay there?
Yes. Yes I am.
Can I use the scooter?
Yes. Yes you can.
Cool!

Yeah, that sounds pretty much like the 8-year old Maggie!  Now she’s 21 and spent the last couple days back at home for Fall Break, and it’s been wonderful having her home from school. We’ll get Max back for a few days, too, their breaks almost overlap.  So we get a little time with the kids, they get some time at home visiting us, and the dogs!  I expect nowadays if they found me laying on the ground next to a scooter they may panic a little more quickly, but I’ll try not to test that theory!

Ch-Ch-Changes…..

Sat down to update my journal, and realized it’s been two months! Amazing, where did that time go? Well, life got crazy:

*We sold our house in Chelsea and moved to Williamston!
*We have officially become “empty-nesters” with both kids now moved out of the house and into their universities, University of Michigan and Western Michigan University!
*A BIG renovation has been taking place for the last 7 weeks at Williamston Theatre, at the same time that we’re rehearsing and about to go into previews for the beautiful play The Safe House by Kristine Thatcher.

So – life has been busy!  And WONDERFUL.  We’re about to open SEASON FOURTEEN at Williamston Theatre!

The kids:

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The building renovation.  We tore out our old Stage Manager tech booth and put in a new one!

How it looks now:

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How it looked a few weeks ago:

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and a couple weeks before that….

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…aaaaaand from the other side….

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Also, here’s our new house!

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AND here are a few rehearsal shots from the BEAUTIFUL show The Safe House by Kristine Thatcher, directed by the wonderful Casaundra Freeman, and starring Karen Sheridan, Dani Cochrane and Tobin Hissong.

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So, the last 8 weeks have been insanely busy, but also pretty darned wonderful.  I’m so grateful for my family, and my work, and the people I get to work with!

I hope everyone else has had a good summer as well – now that Fall is upon us, and my that wonderful Autumnal feeling is in the air, I’m really looking forward to what’s coming up. I hope you all are too!

Quick update

This last month has been such a whirlwind! So many things to be grateful for, exciting challenges at work and at home.

After my birthday my sister-in-law Jackie, my brother Dominic and my daughter Maggie threw a surprise birthday party for Jeanne and me (my beautiful wife’s birthday is a few days after mine!) So many wonderful people came, it was enough to get me all choked up. Maggie played her “get them to the restaurant” role perfectly, too – I never saw it coming! Jeanne and I are so lucky to have so many wonderful people in our lives, it’s just such a blessing.

To Quiet The Quiet has been going well at the theatre. It’s a powerful, dark piece that makes people uncomfortable. I’m okay with that, sometimes that’s what theatre should do. The cast, director and production team really produced beautiful work and the way audiences are responding, it’s paid off. We close it tomorrow!

Speaking of the theatre, we are getting close to being able to announce next season, and I love it. More to come on that soon – but first we still have to get through more of THIS season! I love the season selection part of my job, and have been reading so many plays lately. There just isn’t a lot better than a curling up on the couch with couple cups of coffee and a good play in the morning, y’know?

Other positive things:

My daughter turned 21! I made her take a picture of the server carding her at HopCat. 🙂

In less than 60 days I will be in Germany visiting my son Max! He’s going to introduce me to his wonderful host family, who kindly offered to house me for my stay! I’m excited to have him show me around his part of Germany, and to meet his friends. Then we’re going to Italy for a couple of days to visit our former exchange student Tommaso, who is at university in Milan now. I’m really looking forward to this trip, and time with Max. I can’t speak of German, but I’ve been working on my Italian again. Il mio italiano non est buono, but I’m enjoying it!

Hug the people you love today, folks. I say that a lot, but with good reason. Take a minute from the craziness of life, and count a few blessings. Really: take a second and breathe, and think on a few things, and a few people, that are wonderful in your life. Then go and make sure the people you listed know they’re on your list.

The Big Five Oh!

I don’t know about you, but I’m now voting that the best way to finish up a birthday is to relax on the couch after everyone is asleep, with a drink, snuggled up in your Heat Miser/Snow Miser pajama pants, your Star Trek t-shirt, and a Superman wool cap. (What can I say, my family and friends KNOW ME!!)

What a day! Had first preview of To Quiet The Quiet by Christy Hall, which went wonderfully. Was surprised at the end of the preview talkback by cast, crew and staff presenting me with a birthday pie and the whole audience singing happy birthday to me! (Yes, birthday pie. Pie is better than cake – MY PEOPLE KNOW ME!)

Turned 50 today. What a great day! FIFTY! Amazing. 5 years ago today I was in a coma, and my family was going through hell, but being supported by so many wonderful people. I am SO grateful to be here for another birthday, and to be able to spend it with so many awesome people. Thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes today!

So, I sit here, a bit after midnight, finishing my drink and the brownie that my daughter left me (with a candle in it and a match so I could blow out one last candle before bed,) just watching the snow fall out the front window. Peaceful, quiet. (The drive home wasn’t, but I made it!) Now I can hear the furnace humming in the basement, and occasionally a cough or a gentle snore can be heard from one of the bedrooms. FlipFlop, our schnoodle dog, just padded out and flopped down onto my feet. I re-read the wonderful birthday message my son sent me from Germany.

I don’t know what the future holds, or where we’ll all be in 5 years.

I know that 5 years ago was a nightmare.

I also know that this, though, this right now, is perfect.

Thanks, Universe.

Breaking out of a funk….

Okay – This is fascinating! A few years ago, in Amsterdam, they had to excavate a riverbed that ran through the city. During the excavation, archeologists took advantage of the dig to see what they could find. What they found was an amazing array of things lost into the river dating from now and going back thousands of years, and they catalogued them all!

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Dice, dated between 1500 and 1200 AD! Some gambler lost THAT bet!

Check it out, this is incredible.  

In other news, we’re about to open the final show of our 12th season at Williamston Theatre.  We started previews last night of Memoir and it’s the kind of show that the word “Delightful” was invented for!  Work has been wonderful. I had the chance to direct a terrific show, Significant Other, at the MSU Summer Circle.  That was an absolute treat.  Script was fun, it was outside and fun, and the cast and design team were top notch – truly a bunch of young professionals now graduated with MFA’s and heading out to what I know will be great careers in the industry.

Despite work being really good, and family life being wonderful (one kid in college, one graduating high school, and an amazing wife keeping me sane), it’s been a challenge finding the motivation to write – either in my personal journal or here, on this site.  It’s been frustrating, because I’ve been in a bit of a slump.  A handful of life things and personal things, stuff we all deal with, have been weighing on me.  Along with those, the incredibly divisive and vitriolic political mess here in the U.S. has just left me feeling burned out, and I’ve also (either because of that stuff of just along with it!) allowed myself to get more chubby and out of shape physically than I’ve been in a while, and that’s been frustrating – it’s also just not good for me, especially with the variety of health issues I already have –  so that’s been weighing on me too. (Hah. “Weighing.” Literally!)  So all of that has meant that lately I’ve found myself MISSING that sense of loving life that I normally have – and have had for especially the last few years, now that I’m in my extra-innings of life!

Fortunately, life and family and friends and the universe have been there giving me reasons to perk back up.  Spending lots of QFT lately, which has been nice, doing some more bike riding and exercising has been good for me.  I’m now prepping to direct our fall show, Silent Sky, by Lauren Gunderson, which is a GORGEOUS piece of theatre and I am absolutely thrilled to be working on it with an amazing team of people!  That, and a handful of other projects which are coming up, are pretty exciting.  I *am* getting nervous because in a couple of months my son is heading to Germany for a year long Exchange Program: I’m thrilled for him, but I will worry the entire year he is gone!

OH! Plus – I’ve got a little vacation time coming up. More on that later, but it’s going to be a wonderful trip and I can not wait!

So – thanks for reading! And if YOU’RE having any kind of slump, like I’ve had, hang in there.  Look around, find your joy and embrace it.  Then go help others find theirs – I think that helps!