Friday, July 6, 2018

Remembrance For A Friend

I've spent the better part of an hour trying to begin this post. All my words have been carefully thought about, but eventually deleted, because they all seemed to pale and wane when I read them.

I lost a special friend recently; a woman I cherished in my life for over twenty years. She was older than me, but I never thought of her that way. From the day we first met, there was a connection, enforced by mutual respect, and a love for life, that bonded us.

The struggle I'm having with writing about my sadness over this loss speaks to what a unique woman she was, and that's why just stringing together adoring adjectives fail miserably. She was a giving individual, both to her community, her family, and her friends. All commendable attributes, but many deserving people can be described that way.

She and her husband were welcomed into our home numerous times, as I was to hers, and we shared so many fun and rewarding moments together while we lived near each other. After I moved away, we would have regular visits by phone, keeping in touch with each other's lives, and commenting on a host of topics. 

I learned much from her. She was educated, worldly, and had a delightful sense of humor (and a laugh that never failed to make my day). I'd like to hope that a small part of what she taught me I have succeeded to emulate.

Our last visit in person was about a year ago, and a treasured memory. My husband and I were back in the town, where she still lived, for a book signing, and I loved being able to present her with my novel, which I lovingly inscribed to her. A few weeks later, she sent me a note praising my writing, and sharing specific ways in which the book had touched her. Her words were so beautifully crafted; I read that note over and over.

I've given you just a few of the many ways this woman influenced my life. I'm sure, if I'd expressed these to her during her lifetime, she would have deflected them. That was another reason I loved her; she was gracious and unassuming.

I guess the best thing to do is just to say, I was definitely lucky she chose to be my friend. And my tears will continue for some time, because I will miss her voice, her hugs, and her never-ending love of life.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Love Being A Wordsmith

My title today is sincere; there is nothing I enjoy more than weaving words in a way that keeps readers reading. I don't pretend to be the best at it, but since the definition of wordsmith, according to Webster, is "a person who works with words", I can honestly call myself one.

Last week, R.J. and I announced the title of our next Walt Disney World book: Imagination And Dreams Are Forever. It occurred to me, as I was deciding on a topic for this blog, that our followers might be curious about why we chose it.

It is a reference to a quote attributed to Walt Disney, and those two words, Imagination and Dreams are ones that relate to 1) what Walt wanted his theme park to be about, and 2) what our lives have been as a result of our inclusion into his World.

Looking up the two words in my most used text, Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, I discovered those two words have many, many different meanings. That makes our title even more perfect, I think. Let me list a few of the varied definitions.

Imagination: creativity, vision, resourcefulness, originality, innovation, curiosity, passion, interest, fascination. (I also keep hearing the song Figment sings in The Journey To Imagination attraction at Epcot - I'm not certain I have the lyric totally correct, but it goes something like: "Imagination. A dream can be a dream come true; it all starts with me and you.")

Dream: fantasy, daze, aspiration, hope, aim, objective, intention, desire, wish, yearning, contemplate, create, romantic, ideal. (Another lyric enters my head - from Walt Disney's Cinderella: "A dream is a wish your heart makes.")

Our work-in-progress not only covers many of those descriptive synonyms; our life together has, and will always be filled with examples of them all. We don't plan to ever stop dreaming, or imagining, and we've adopted another line from a more recent song lyric - from the award-winning, film, La La Land: "Here's to the ones who dream, foolish though they may seem." That's us to a "T" - and we wouldn't want it any other way!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Fun Challenge - If You're Interested!

For those of our Disney followers who saw me, with my husband R.J., on his FB video log today, you already know about the "contest challenge" I'm going to address in my blog.

As I've mentioned in past months, R.J. and I are writing our third book on the early decades of Walt Disney World, and our work there.  We have chosen a title for the book: Imagination And Dreams Are Forever.  However, we need a sub-title to make it clear to readers what we're writing about. That's where the challenge for you comes in.

The sub-title has to encompass the following: 1) that this is about Walt Disney World in its first years, and 2) that we did work there then and these are our personal reflections. In addition, we will begin the book with a brief look at how Walt envisioned the property, and how it came to be following his untimely death. WDW was Walt's dream, his legacy, and for us it will always be "WALT Disney World".

So, that should give you enough info to spur your thinking, and submit your idea. Remember that this sub-title cannot be too long and wordy.

If you do want to give it a try, simply messenger your submission to R.J. on Facebook, on his site Randy Jack Ogren. You have until July 31st to submit.

The winner will be chosen by us and our publisher at Theme Park Press. You will receive a personally autographed copy of the book, and your efforts will be mentioned in either the introduction or the acknowledgements section.

We're looking forward to reading all the ideas, and selecting one that will truly compliment our title! 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Family First

I am not unique; everyone has priority issues to deal with every day - and most of those involve family.

This week, R.J. had successful cataract surgery, and is recovering nicely. However, this has required me to be his nurse, in a way, and spend lot of time taking care of his needs, and assisting him more than usual with work and household duties.

It is a temporary thing, and by next week at this time, I may go into further detail in my blog about just what is involved. For now, I need to focus on him, and the rest of my family responsibilities as well.

Thanks for your understanding, and I'll be back here next Friday.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Putting It Together

Combining all the elements involved to present live theatre to an audience is never easy, but always rewarding. Since mid-February, when my son Sean and I held auditions for "Much Ado About Nothing", a large portion of my time - especially evenings - has been focused on that goal.

When we formed this thespian endeavor a couple of years ago, we knew we wanted to bring to the stage new, edited versions of Shakespeare's works, to rival the notion that his plays are long and difficult to understand. For example, our script of this play is one hour and forty minutes, has no intermission, and we delight in watching the audience happily involved in the characters and plot. We have been successful in changing minds about the Bard, winning new audience members to classic theatre.

We've also been lucky to welcome many actors who are eager to be in Shakespeare plays, and love our unique way of presenting them.  Our budget is small, our space to perform is an open black box style theatre, and we design sets and costumes that offer the audiences imaginative backdrops for the story that unfolds.

As co-director with my son on this production, and three others prior, I have delighted in being his second. He and I each have individual strengths when it comes to knowing how to motivate and instruct. His creativity as well as his definitive knowledge of Shakespeare, coupled with his mantra to the cast and crew that "we're all here to play and enjoy" make for a happy atmosphere where everyone works at bringing their best.

Going from first rehearsal to opening night takes hours and hours of concentrated honing of ideas and technique, of changes and growth that eventually bring us to that first night before an audience. I can never say enough about the work our actors never cease to give us.

Presenting quality theatre is a collaborative effort, from auditions to final bows, and it is a passion that gives me never-ending joy.     

Friday, May 4, 2018

"Another Opening - Another Show"

No real blog today, because the production of "Much Ado About Nothing", (which I have co-driected with our son, Sean) is opening this evening.

I have spent the afternoon writing personal notes to all the cast and crew members of the show, and now I'm dealing with last-minute emergencies that always arrive on opening nights.

Next week, I'll tell you all just what details are involved in getting to a first night performance. Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 27, 2018

My Best Post About Birthdays - "A Special Birthday Cake"

We celebrate three birthdays in our family in the last week of April and the second week in May. Birthdays are always special for us, but even more so this year.

On April 24th, our son, Sean, turned 44; a unique birthday since he was born in April (the fourth month), on the 24th day, in the year 1974. He marked his celebration with a clever costume party. On April 30th, our middle grandson, Christopher, will celebrate his 21st birthday. Then, on May 12th, my beloved R.J. will once again be older than me by 7 months. That's a distinction I love reminding him of until I become the same age next January!

To help explain our family's reverence for birthdays, I wanted to refer you to a post I did nine years ago, on January 7, 2009. Sadly, however, I have realized that it doesn't appear in my list of past posts.
The next best thing, then, is to recreate it here. I'd love to receive your comments about it, including your own memories of birthday moments.

He climbed the dark stairwell slowly, his back and arms weary from a hard day's work, a day that marked his 26th birthday, but that fact did not enter his mind. He thought only of his new bride, waiting for him on the other side of the apartment door. She had greeted him every night these past two months since their wedding, with a smile and a hug, and always neatly groomed and dressed.

His key clicked in the lock, and her voice called to him, "I'm in the kitchen!" His coat and keys found their way to the living room chair as he closed the door, then followed her voice. He certainly didn't expect the scene he found before him.

On the tiny kitchen table was a birthday cake, candles lit, and his wife behind the table, beaming at him, as she exclaimed, "Happy Birthday honey!" He didn't move or speak for several long seconds. His wife's expression changed to one of puzzlement. "It's coconut - your favorite," she explained in a quiet tone. Her words elicited no response. He continued to stare at the cake. Did you forget it was your birthday?" she asked, walking over and giving him an extra long hug. His arms wrapped tightly around her, he pressed his face next to hers, and she was aware of his cold skin against her warm cheek. And then, she felt his tears. His body trembled as he confessed, "This is the first birthday cake I've ever had."

That is a true story I think of ever time a member of our family has a birthday. The man was my father who grew up in a most dysfunctional household. He told me often that he never knew familial love or affection until he married my mother.

He would tell the story about that birthday cake over and over to anyone who would listen. It never failed to make me cry. I believe that is why birthdays in our family, as long as I can remember, have always been marked with special dinners, gifts, congratulatory songs, hugs, cards, and always, always a cake.

Mine, this year was lemon with lemon icing - at my request. When I was growing up, my mom would always bake me a three-layer cake: pink, white and blue with white boiled icing (a confection rarely seen on cakes anymore). I remember my ninth birthday when my dad decorated my cake with a beautiful carousel he had made out of paper and cardboard.

My husband bakes my cakes for me now, and delights in decorating them with special sayings or pictures. He would take his decorating skills to new heights every year with our children's cakes, usually fashioned in the shape of a favorite Disney character. We have pictures of all of them, and our now grown children remember them with fondness. It's our grandsons who are the recipients of his special cakes now, the most recent being a purple dinosaur.

The year my mother passed away, I attempted to make my dad's favorite coconut cake on his first birthday without her. I cooked the icing, made the lemon pudding filling, and baked and frosted the cake with care. He was touched by my efforts, but we both knew it wasn't as good as hers. I made the attempt, though, and that's what counted.

Some people might think it's silly to make such a big deal about a sweet reminder that you're one year older. But, to me, it is also a reminder of how much we are loved in our family because, whenever I blow out my candles, I'm reminded of that story my dad used to tell about how much it meant to him to have that cake.