Gain. Wait…Loss.

6 January, 2019
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When I got to the end of 2018 (specifically, Christmas Eve), I thought, OK. I made it. One year without the Thriller. A year of grieving and learning, and learning to grieve. The day after Christmas, I woke up and took Remy out, stood on the back porch and breathed the cold air. It was a new day; a new era for me. Time to concentrate on being the best me I could be, because that’s what Michael would want.

Then, three days later, I heard that Lisa, my dear friend and partner in crimes against musical theater for the past 19 years, was having a bad week. So I texted her:

Doing the grad party circuit

New Year’s Eve was the Thriller’s and my wedding anniversary. I thought, rather than sit at home and feel sorry for myself, I’d go spend some quality time with my good friend Stoney, since she had no plans.

When I got there, her friend and caregiver answered the door — not Lisa herself. Red flags went up in my mind. She was in bed, unable and unwilling to get up. So I went upstairs, lay in her bed with her, and we laughed and had a nice conversation, although something looked strangely familiar. The only way I can describe it is that there was nothing behind her eyes. Michael had that look as well, when the disease started to overtake his brain as well as his liver and lungs. Dread crept into my heart; I knew, lying there next to her, looking at silly pictures on my phone and making her laugh, that this was the last time I would ever be with her in this world.

Theater dept. selling the basketball tickets

I was right.

On New Year’s Day, she worsened, and then was transported to the hospital, then to a Hospice facility. It all happened so fast. Yesterday morning, she died. She fought metastatic breast cancer for over 20 years, and just kept beating it back. I’m angry that most times, eventually, cancer wins.

Still…I have fantastic memories of a two-decade friendship that brought a ton of laughter, fun, learning and sweetness to my life. Not that we didn’t have struggles, especially in rehearsals. Oh my, the stories I could tell — one of the most famous being during (insert show here — I have no recollection) rehearsal one evening, when she’d had enough with lackluster acting efforts onstage.

Pondering a favorite activity we often shared

We each took turns, it seemed, ranting and raving at our casts to sing out/identify with their character/follow through/remember choreography/try harder/commune with their audience/give a dang, etc. Well, this was her night to go off the rails, and during the tirade, she threw the pencil she was holding — and it hit me right in the face. Ow!! The best part was watching the cast — silent onstage, taking their medicine — trying to decide whether or not to react. Priceless. (Of course, when Stoney laughed and apologized, the tension released and everyone had a laugh at my expense – including me.)

When it was my turn to lose my mind, she found it difficult to not laugh. So she’d look intently at her script and pretend (badly) to take notes or read while I ranted, with the cast totally seeing what was going on, but not daring to smile or react. God love ’em…I respect that. hahahaha

I could write all day about the times we sat in my room or hers, often with a small pizza to share before rehearsals, and talked about life and love and just stuff in general. We shared secrets, dished dirt, laughed (oh my, did we laugh), and talked musical theater for forever. Her love for it was as strong as mine has ever been. The reason it exists at our school traces back to early 2000, when she asked me if I might help her with the music part of a show she wanted to do (Bye Bye Birdie). I said sure, why not? From that day, we were pretty much inseparable.

We drove each other crazy on occasion, and had a couple verbal knock-down-drag-outs, but always hugged and apologized in the end. She was a sweet soul, so undeserving of the beating she took over the years with this hideous disease. I will love and miss her forever.

Of course, she would tell me that hey, the show goes on, no matter what. So I will put on the tap shoes later on this afternoon and start choreographing the production number for the show in March that will be performed entirely in her honor.

Life — as sucky as it sometimes is — goes on, despite the crushing heartbreak of losing a loved one. I’m sure you’ve known that sadness. But, as the Thriller used to say: Onward through the fog! I can’t see what’s next, but one foot goes in front of the other, regardless. Stoney would want it that way, too. I see them both up in heaven, having a laugh at my silliness.

Much love…

HNY from RtB IX

1 January, 2019
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Well, here we are.

Hello, fiends — I know it’s been a while. I’d imagine that many of us are in varying stages of rumination/reflection about the past year, and I’m no exception.

I’d be fibbing if I said my 2018 wasn’t a difficult one. It’s taken me a full year to acclimate myself to this new life I never asked for, and I guess I’ll always be in a state of adjustment, as new experiences bring new memories. But at least the memories are fond. :-) 

The new year is already presenting some difficulties, but I am resolved to handle them with all the grace and self-control I can scrape together. How about you?

I’ve generally found that new year’s resolutions put pressure on me I’d rather not self-inflict. So, I’ve generally stayed away from them (except maybe for here, and here, and oh, here). Truthfully, I can’t even think of one I’d like to make that would be “new,” and not a continuation of stuff I’ve already been working on (being kinder to myself, saving more money, losing weight, blah blah…).

So, what to do? Just continue to live as conscientiously and happily as we can, given our circumstances. Hmmm. New Year’s Continuing Resolutions? I like the sound of it. I now own it.

New Year’s Continuing Resolutions©

  1. Be kind.
  2. Forgive people — even those who neither ask for, nor think they need, forgiveness from you. (This one’s a tuffy.)
  3. Eat wisely, but well. Stop stressing over every calorie.
  4. Stop being so dang negative about everything, for cripesake. Look for the good.
  5. Realize that positive thought and sunny outlook are not gifts for the few; they’re habits worth developing.
  6. Pay stuff forward.
  7. Learn to say “no” without the obligatory accompanying personal identity crisis.
  8. Make plans (to travel!) and practice discipline in saving money to realize them.

Got any to add?

As always, thank you for reading and going on my silly journeys with me. I should write to you more often. It makes me happy!

Much love…

Odyssey 2019

29 September, 2018
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Greetings, fiends — it’s been a while, hasn’t it. I’ve missed writing to you!

July, August, and September are a blur to me now. Some good things happened, and I also suffered some. It’s OK. All is well today, and I’m continuing my quest to plan and do things that stretch me as a human, and that I know would make the Thriller happy. I’m missing him bigtime right now. Blah. But he wouldn’t want me to pine or whine about it. So here we go — the big reveal.

Odyssey 2019:

Six fun places

My hope is that I’ll be able to do the Netherlands-Vienna-Salzburg leg with Suzanne. Even if she can’t get away for that, I’ll still enjoy hanging with her in Amsterdam, as she lives about 70 miles from there.

After two days in Vienna, it’s off to Salzburg, where the highlight will be the Sound of Music Movie Tour:-D And natch, I’ll need someone to video me doing the slow singing turn when I climb that mountain (kidding — the mountain is actually in Germany, and the land is privately owned, but the meadow is accessible…) and sing “I Have Confidence” walking down that lane, and “Do Re Mi” while balancing on that fountain. Roll tape.

And what would a trip to Vienna and Salzburg be without a Mozart walk? We’ll likely start there, as I know Suzi is a Mozart fan as well (she has a kitty named Mozart, and another named Brahms!). And don’t forget the sausages, the biergartens, the outdoor festivals, the castles and the Alps.

After saying goodbye to Suzanne, I’ll finish the trip with a visit to Bob and Kay’s home in Slovenia. They’ve been living there on and off regularly since who knows when, and I’ve never visited them there.

I wish it was today.

But hey, there’s Shrek work to be done, and groceries to buy, and bulbs to plant. We’ll just have to see how that auger drill bit I bought works for digging the holes. I hope you’re all doing great! Till next time…

London, Day 2

17 June, 2018
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As I fly backwards at 100 mph on the Virgin 10:20 to Manchester, listening to Revolver on my headphones, I reflect back on the last two days in London, and indeed, the last six days I’ve been on this odyssey. Would the Thriller be happy with all of this? I think so. I think he’s smiling down on me, and it makes me happy. It’s a melancholy happy, as those of you who’ve lost someone know. I’ll never be happy in the same way, ever again. And I think I’m getting accustomed to finding different ways to cope with that. I don’t imagine I’ll ever “arrive,” but I do know there are healthy ways to keep stabbing at it. I’m resolved to make the best of it.

Boy, did Miss Suzanne and I make a day of it yesterday! We started with breakfast at our hotel at 8 a.m., then took off for a day of nonstop craziness. It was the most fun I’ve had in ages, and I was delighted to have it with Suzanne. While the day was nuts, the mood was completely laid back, if you can imagine that. There was no We have to get to the next THING! attitude at all; rather, we said if we didn’t make a connection or the line was all the way around the block (like it was at Westminster Abbey), no bigs. We’d punt and do something else. I loved it. I was on vacation, and I wasn’t going to follow a list, and she felt the same way. First priority was to enjoy each other’s company after not having been together for four years — and did we ever do that! Such fun.

First up was the Tower of London. From Traitors’ Gate to the Crown Jewels to the world-famous ravens, it was a truly impressive experience. Also sobering, when you consider how severe the conditions were — especially for those convicted of crimes and awaiting punishment. As we looked down at Traitors’ Gate, I imagined the journey that prisoners of the Crown made, en route to their final destination (in life), looking at the heads of previous “criminals” on pikes on the tower bridge…then to make the final ascent up those stairs and to the Tower…just barbaric treatment.

Up next was Westminster Abbey. When our taxi dropped us off, we couldn’t believe our eyes. The line was almost all the way around the cathedral, three and four bodies across. And we had tickets already; this was the security line to just get past the desk and join another queue to wait your turn to file through. With just over 12 hours to see and do everything we thought we could fit in the day, it was decision time. Do we want to blow through two of our remaining hours standing in line, or get on to other things? Suzanne had been to the Abbey already, and I’d seen countless photos and documentaries…I know, not the same thing, but we pulled the plug on it in the interest of not having most of our London experience spent waiting in line. I’m glad we decided to move on, because we moved onto the Tube to St. John’s Wood — to Abbey Road.

Standing on the zebra and in front of the studios was like a circle being completed. I know it sounds silly to those who don’t understand, so I won’t try to codify the experience with words, because I probably couldn’t anyway. It’s the magical mystery that will forever remain so, and I’m fine with that.

It made my heart happy to hear Suzanne tell me how  touched she was that she got to be there to share this experience with me. It was very emotional, and I’m glad that, even though she’s not a big Fabs fan, her empathy for this hopeless addict came through loud and clear. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

After that, it was lunch at the Admiralty Pub, then off to scout out a hop-on/hop-off tour that would take us to the big-ticket places for a looksee. What fun for our eyeballs, and relief for our aching feet. We saw world-famous sights, including Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and many others. There were a few tourists in Oxford Circus. Lawd.

After the double-decker, it was off to the London Eye. Suzanne didn’t think I’d be up for it, but after all my previous experiences in overcoming my ookiness with heights, I was like, why not? It was totally entertaining, and we got a great view of the Thames, Parliament, and Big Ben (although he was 99% covered in scaffolding for repairs).

After that, it was a quick trip back to the hotel to get ready for the evening. We went down the street to a pub for some appetizers, then hoofed it to Whitechapel for the Jack the Ripper tour. Very interesting way to finish out our London visit. Philip, our tour guide, was funny and interesting, and we walked the same streets that the poor victims walked during those frightening months in 1888, when the town was terrorized by the most famous serial killer in history. It was fascinating to look at the old versus the new on this walking tour; every street had a modern vibe, but with a deep, dark history lurking beneath.

And here’s something that completely creeped us out. We were standing in a square, listening to Philip speak, when my eyes were diverted upwards, to a window of an old building. While at first thinking I’d seen nothing, I strained my vision again to bring into focus the face of a girl — just staring at me. Staring at all of us, from the window. She never moved the whole time we stood in that space. I got Suzanne’s attention, and she saw her, too. The gal was probably just putting us on (“Let’s give a bit of a fright to the Rippers down there…”), but it definitely had me going for a minute!

Afterwards, we draggled back to the hotel and had a drink in the lobby before calling it a night. After a good night’s sleep, we met for breakfast and said our goodbyes. I will miss you, Suzi! I hope you had a good train ride back to NL.

At this point, I’m ready to pull into Manchester train station and spend my final day in England. Looking forward to relaxing a bit before the flight tomorrow. I want to thank my family (sister Mavis, my sons and stepdaughter) for working together to care for Remy so I could fly away and goof off these many days. You’re the best! And to my sister and sister-in-law, Vicki and Vicki — thank you so much for all the great advice on getting around in the UK. Your instructions have been spot-on, and so helpful! I couldn’t have booked this thing on my own without your help.

And to you, my fiends — thanks for coming along. It meant the world. OK, we’re almost to the station, so I have to check out of this wifi. I’ll talk to you stateside.

Much love…

London, Day 1

16 June, 2018
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The last time I was in England was 1976. It really has been great to return and experience the London sights as a grown-up. :-)

I left Liverpool in a frenzy of uncertainty because of the construction that closed Lime Street Station (my original point of departure). South Parkway Station was a zoo when my Uber driver dropped me off. But I ended up getting on a train going the right direction, and leaving earlier than my previously booked trip, so….score!

Lush farmland (and one yikes) dressed the view on the southbound trip to London. In many ways, it reminded me of the green of Ohio. Cows are cows and grass is grass. What struck me most (and I’d remembered this from my last trip) is that there are virtually no houses with clapboard or siding. No wooden dwellings. Everything is almost exclusively made of brick or plaster of some kind. I know there are several reasons, and I won’t discuss them here, but it was neat to see all the structural differences.

Once I got to Euston Station, I had to run to catch another train to King’s Cross (alas, there was no Gate 9 3/4, although I confess I didn’t look; I was running). From there, I found the right line (there are three subway lines that run concurrently, using the same platform and track, so a person has to be on her game) and parked my little self in, surprisingly, a mostly empty train.

And sorry, NYC — the bright platforms in London have your dungeons beat by a mile. I dunno…maybe it’s unfair to compare them, but I didn’t feel depressed and I saw nary a rat on the tracks — unlike my New York experiences. (It’s OK tho — I still love NYC the most.)

After arriving at Aldgate, schlepping my 17-lb. backpack and myself off the train, up three flights of steps and out into the air, I hoofed it a quarter of a mile to my hotel. At long last! Then I waited for Suzanne’s train to arrive. She got to the hotel a few hours later, and we met on the elevator — a joyous reunion! The rest of the evening was spent eating, drinking, talking, and laughing: basically c!atching up on the last four years since we’d sat across the table, face-to-face. She’s a joy!

We have a super-busy day planned today. Lots to tell you about tonight; I hope you’ll check back to see some pretty pictures!

Much love to all.