Staying Shiny

My life as a Uber-geek in a Bridal world


I'm feeling at a bit of a loss lately.  I find myself struggling with a lot of things in life.  It has been a year of ups and downs and the last few days have been quite a roller coaster of emotions.  In all of this, I find myself struggling to find he spirit of Christmas.

Where to begin...well a big stressor lately has been the fact that J is currently unemployed.  While this was not a decision he came to lightly, it has been hard.  Things got really bad at his job and he became very unhappy.  He began having panic attacks each night with the thought of going back there another day.  After discussing it we decided the best course of action was for him to give his notice and leave.  He felt an instant sense of relief.  I started to worry about money.  We decided not to exchange gifts for each other this year to save money and we have done very well at living on a tight budget until he is able to find a new job.  I think I won't feel that sense of relief until he has a new job in place and it's so hard to find something right now going in to Christmas.  I hope the new year will bring a new job for him and bring me a sense of stability.

About a week ago I lost an old friend.  Jo and I grew up together and later she worked for me for a while.  We have stayed in touch over the years although I haven't seen her in person in few years, I have spoken with her quite frequently on facebook.  Last Friday she let me know she was driving back here from where she lives now to visit with her family.  I was really hoping to maybe get the chance to see her and her brother even just quickly before she went home.  Sunday morning her brother posted the following on facebook "woke up, dreaming of taking someone to the hospital.  Weird"  At 11:30 pm the same day he posted this "Need your prayers tonight for my nephews.  They are on their way to the children's hospital.  They were involved in a car collision.  Please, prayers for my boys.  For those that knew my sister I'm sorry but she didn't make it.  Pls, prayers for my boys."  My hand went to my mouth in shock.  Jo was such an amazing person with such a great sense of humor.  She always made me smile and I enjoyed teasing her brother with her.  This hit me really hard.  Jo was dead and her boys were in rough shape.  Since then, her oldest son has been released from the hospital and her youngest has started making progress towards recovery.  Yesterday he was taken off his breathing tube and began breathing on his own since the accident.  Today he was released from the ICU but is expected to be months in recovery and may have to undergo reconstructive surgery.  My heart breaks for her family.

Yesterday there was a tragedy involving 5 young people from my city.  While I don't know them personally it is still a hard thing to hear about.  Four 20 year olds were headed from here to Calgary for 2 of them to fly home for Christmas when the ex boyfriend of one of the girls ended up in a confrontation with them on the side of the highway and he shot and killed his ex-girlfriend and two males in the car, injured the other girl and then turned the gun on himself.  It seems like such a senseless act and such a waste of life.

I find myself very emotional over silly things.  Tonight for example, an episode of "Say Yes to the Dress" had me bawling like a baby.  There was a bride on the show who had been involved in a bad car accident that had claimed the life of both of her parents.  There was a moment in the show when she had found the perfect gown that her aunt hugged her and said "you're parents should be here"  For some reason that really got to me.  I'm trying so hard to keep my emotions in check.  Yesterday an old friend put things into perspective a bit for me with some very kind words.  She has been doing this thing on facebook where everyday she writes a Christmas memory.  She has always been such an excellent writer and storyteller that I found myself enjoying her trips down memory lane.  She wrote a story of a Christmas that I barely remember where I got her a job working the concession at a basketball tournament held during the holidays in our home town.  I wasn't so much the story as the line about me in it.  She said I (have) always been one of the most loyal and devoted human beings (she) has ever met.  I was astounded.  Here I was thinking about how I wished I had said some of these things to people I had lost and she is just doing it.  Telling people what they mean to her without prompting or reason.  It really makes you think.  This meant so much for me to hear why don't we tell people what they mean to us and how they have impacted us when we get the chance?  I am going to strive to do this.  I want people to know these things.  I want them to feel the rewards of their impact even if, like me, they aren't aware of it.

I'm trying to find the positive in life right now.  J and I are healthy (for the most part.  I have 3 cracked molars from grinding my teeth in my sleep) and have a roof over our heads.  We have everything we need in life and even a few frilly extras.  I have a happy and healthy family who I love and I get to spend time with them all this Christmas, with the exception of my brother and his family in Ontario.  I have faith everything will turn out for the best for us.  I just hope that 2012 will be a year with more ups than downs.

Christmas Baking

Today was our annual Christmas bake day with my family.  Every year my mom, sister and sister-in-law and I get together and do our best to make our friends and families a little fatter each year.  Today we got together and made gingerbread men, sweet n salty (a yummy cereal and nut mix covered in a syrup), cherry and lemon pound cakes, lemon shortbread cookies and oreo truffles.  This year went super smoothly and we got all this baking done in just a few hours.

It was the first year we made these Oreo truffles and let me tell you, they are amazing!  They are super easy to make too.  Well, after you figure our how to dip chocolates that is.  My mom and I started on them before everyone else arrived and after two terrible rounds of attempting to melt the chocolate and ruining some perfectly amazing Bernard Callebaut chocolate we finally got our technique down.  My sister showed up in time to help me start dipping the truffles and they turned out pretty great for our first attempt.  Plus they are super yummy!

Once the truffles were done D, JH and Miss A moved on the the gingerbread while my mom worked on various other goodies.  I rolled out the dough while D and JH cut out the cookies and Miss A did the decorating and sugar sprinkling.  She did a great job and helped through almost all the cookies which is pretty impressive for a 2 year old.  Some of her decorating made us all giggle.  Particularly the "fig leaf" gingerbread men and generous sprinkling of sugar.

Some of the fig leaf gingerbread men came out a little...inappropriate.  This lead to a lot more giggling and merriment.

All in all it was a fun day, even if my tummy is a little mad at me for having too many sweets.  Here's the fruits of our labors for the day.  Hopefully everyone enjoys them as much as we enjoyed making them!

Oliver Musical - My Last Three Months

Thieves kitchen, or as it affectionately became known backstage "Hell's Kitchen"

I have been very quiet in the blog world the last few months because I have been hard at work on the musical Oliver.  It was quite the experience.  I worked as the stage manager on the show and for those of you who have no idea what that means, let me tell you it's a huge job!  I had the privledge of working with a very wonderful Director and his team who made my job just a little easier.  I thought I'd share m experience with you so you can understand the job of a stage manager a little better and maybe if you are ever involved in a stage production make sure to thank your stage manager for all they do.

I got the job with the show just a few days before rehearsals started so I had to play a little bit of catch up at the beginning.  Usually I have the script read a few times and my show script prepped to add blocking and calls to it as well as have a contact list for all cast and crew made before the first rehearsal but I didn't have much of a chance to prep on this one.  Day one consisted of passing out scripts and compiling names/phone/emails of all the cast members then after a quick sing through of the show I headed home to compile my email list of over 80 names.  It took me nearly all night but it made the daily emails much faster by only having to type in one group instead of 80 addresses.

The next few months consisted of work (my regular job) followed by rehearsal every night and then home to answer emails regarding the show.  It made my day last from 8:00 am to about 1:00 am Monday to Saturday.  While I was unable to make it to Saturday rehearsals due to my work schedule, I had some awesome assistants who made sure there was always someone there to run things as smoothly as possible. While I was quite exhausted at times, J was super supportive and we had such a great cast and crew that I was able to get through it all without any breakdowns.  Even for having such a huge cast (and so many of them related to each other as well) there were no major fights or issues to deal with.  Everyone got along pretty well with each other and even the few who had the potential to be "problem kids" turned out to be great to work with and more than willing to help in any area I asked.

Having 2 casts for a show can be a bit challenging.  It's important to have the children's roles double cast in a show like this to keep them from getting too exhausted especially with a 3 week run of the show but it poses more challenges in rehearsal.  It was a balancing act to make sure everyone got equal rehearsal time and that nothing was missed.  There were a few times that I had to deal with slightly upset parents who felt that it was too much time/too late in the day/issues with changing schedules etc. but for the most part everything was worked out quickly and the kids all seemed to enjoy themselves. It was interesting to watch each cast (Apples and Banana's) develop and see the kids growth.  At first the Banana cast was quite a bit stronger, but in the end the Apple's gave them a run for their money!  I was so proud of both.  Having 2 casts also makes for a slightly different show between the two nights.  The Oliver's were both awesome but had much different strengths on stage.  Same with the 2 kids that played the Artful Dodger.  In each cast the Oliver/Dodger pairing was a boy and girl (Apple cast had a male Oliver and female Dodger while the Banana cast had a female Oliver and male Dodger)  They seemed to really click with each other and play off each other very well.

I was so happy to have things running so smoothly that we even had the set in a week early and the cast had plenty of time to adjust to working on it!  The only problem with that was I hadn't arranged for a crew that early so I spent about a week doing a lot of the set changes myself and re-injured my shoulder again, but it was fun!
Oliver set design

Set, one week before opening
Once we got into the run of things it went amazingly well.  J was by my side in the booth running the light board every night which was great because we hadn't really seen each other in 2 months (between work and rehearsals for me and work and coaching football for him)  Unfortunately on opening night the Director's wife had a stroke part way through act one and they were rushed to hospital in Calgary.  (She made an amazing recovery but it was sad to not have them there for the full run)  There were other minor disasters here and there (illness in the cast causing one of the leads to not be able to perform one night, family members getting ill, small fights between the kids, someone calling 911 from backstage as a prank) but everyone pulled together and made it the best show possible.  

Closing night the crew even put on a spoof night for the cast (in which I played Bill Sykes and J played Nancy...mostly so he could kill me by throwing me off the back of the set) and it went over amazingly well.  It was the first time that LMT has had a spoof night and I hope we started a new tradition.  For those who don't know, spoof night is when the crew performs the show for the cast, making fun of things that have happened during the run and some of the general silliness involved in the show.  I had to pare down 10 pages of ideas the crew had come up with into a 10 minute sketch but it went pretty well for being a last minute idea.

As a stage manager, my job is to be boss, friend, sounding board, organizer, problem solver, teacher, councillor and many more things.  It was worth it!  This was one of the best shows I have had the pleasure to work on and the people I worked with really were what made it so special!  I can't wait to see what next year will bring.

Here's a few of my favorite pics from the show

Bulletin board backstage featuring the kids homework - a short story of how they became and orphan.  And Lionel Richie

Banana Cast warmup before the show.  There's me by the piano
Banana Cast warms up
Some of the Orphans "dirty" feet.  This show used a ton of stage dirt every night
Food Glorious Food
Who Will Buy - Rose seller, Strawberry seller and Milk Maid
The Sowerberry's - Oliver's escape
Consider Yourself - Oliver and Dodger Apple Cast

Awesome Stage crew setting "Hell's Kitchen"

Nancy in Oom Pah Pah

Fagin with some of his little thieves

Bill Sykes falling from the bridge after being shot

Widow Corney and Mr. Bumble - I Shall Scream

Nancy, Bet and some of the tarts in the Three Cripple bar

Doctor Grimwig - "I'll eat my head"
Bill Sykes confronts Fagin

Bill Sykes sneaking up on Nancy right before he murders her

Banana Cast - curtain call
Green room shenanigans at midnight....every night

My closing night gift - The "Tony Workhouse Award" for best Stage Manager 2011