Monday, August 29, 2016

The sweetness and the sorrow...

I am a musical theatre geek.

This is probably not too shocking if you read my blog or follow me on social media. In truth, I love all theatre, not only musicals, but I love to belt out a show tune at the top of my lungs and pretend that I am Bernadette Peters.

My sister loves musicals too, and so my birthday gift has morphed into season tickets to Playhouse Square in Cleveland, one for each of us, which is pretty much the most wicked cool gift anyone could think to give me. My sister rocks.

Last night we wound up this season and are anxiously awaiting our new tickets for next season. This season we were blessed to see If/Then, Beautiful, The Phantom of the Opera, Steel Magnolias, and Kinky Boots. April also took her daughter Mallory to see Matilda because it was the day of Felicity's dance recital and not even a Broadway series can actually compete with Felicity.

They are all excellent shows. Theatre's ability to take you out of your own life, to connect with you even as there are so many people around you absorbing this story with you-it's incredible.

The Phantom of the Opera I had seen before, in New York when I went with the choir in high school. Much of Phantom is based on its elaborate scenery, which I think it gets a bad rap for. What Phantom was at the time was revolutionary. The songs are amazing in their range. The story is one of those better in theory than practice pieces to me, but it is certainly unique.

If/Then is a beautiful, intricate story of choices and intersecting lives. The set pieces in particular stood out to me as so compelling in a story about a city planner, about a meaningless decision leading to the fate of your life. It was, of course, a profound play to watch just a couple of weeks after my divorce was final-what if you had made a different decision, and your life had gone a completely different way, and this particular, horrific pain that sears through every memory of the past 15 years of life would just never have existed? Anthony Rapp was in this production, reprising his role from the Broadway production. I adore Anthony Rapp. Yes, because I love Adventures in Baby-sitting but also because I read his memoir last year, Without You, and it was one of the best memoirs I have ever read in my life.

Kinky Boots I loved. It was right up my alley, as I knew it would be. I knew that a story of a shoe company saved from closure by boots made for drag queens would be fun and profound and life changing and it was. Perhaps it shouldn't surprise me, but I love looking around and seeing all of these older people giving a standing ovation in Cleveland, Ohio for a drag queen in thigh high red boots. It gives me hope for humanity that sometimes gets lost.

Beautiful had by far the best music. I love Carole King and Tin Pan Alley. This too felt like a play that I needed to see in this year of transition. Carole King lost more than a husband when she divorced, she lost the other half of her creative side. How hard must those memories have been to release? And yet she eventually created Tapestry from that experience. Oh, I can only hope for such beauty from such pain.

Surprisingly to me, Steel Magnolias was my favorite of this bunch. I love the movie (I especially love Dolly Parton) and I wasn't sure what to expect from the play. Sally Field screaming in the cemetery? How could they transfer that? Shirley MacLaine fighting with Olympia Dukakis? I mean, Dolly was born to play Truvy. But I loved this play. All of the scenes take place in the beauty parlor, and so it is primarily a play of people talking. As a writer, it sank beneath my skin and stayed there. It was amazing.

Next season we get to see Funhome, Finding Neverland, Into the Woods, The King and I, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Something Rotten!, and An American in Paris. April is most excited about Something Rotten! I am most looking forward to Funhome. But I am sure that we will be surprised by what we love next year.

Theatre geeks to the end.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ohana Means Family...Or How I Coparent with Nick and Jenifer...

One year ago, give or take a few days, I had my first experience "coparenting" my children with Nick and his new family.

That is how I viewed Jenifer and her kids-as Nick's new family.

We spent the day at the Ohio State Fair because Betsy had been selected to take her 4H project to be judged. It was a surreal day to me, looking back-watching the man that I was still married to walk in with his girlfriend. I had met Jenifer once before, just her and me. Which was a surreal experience as well. But this was the first time that we had spent the day all together. For me, it was awkward, wanting so badly to figure out how to best handle the sudden change in my life, and at the same time feeling like I had been kicked to the bottom of a well that I could see no escape from. I had nothing inside of me to give to anyone. Least of all my children, who I love more than I can ever say. All I knew clearly was that they needed their parents, and I was going to have to figure out a way for that to happen.

One year later, here we are. Back to the fair because Betsy is awesome and was selected for 4H project judging again. This time as a family-as one family.

Jenifer and I have become friends in a way that I didn't really imagine could be possible when I met her. I expected that we would learn to get along, and maybe even to parent my kids together in a do-your-homework, go-to-dance-recitals-and-softball-games way. I hoped that maybe one day I would think that Jenifer was my friend in a casual way.

Instead, we have become something quite more than friends, something that doesn't have a proper name to it. We are partners together in raising these kids. She is happy to help in the parenting areas where I am so at sea, she backs up my decisions, she respects who I am as their mother.

It's such a strange thing, being glad that our lives dovetailed in the end of my marriage and the beginning of theirs. Very few people seem to understand it. And yet, it is true with every beat of my heart. It's one thing for me to hashtag a picture "coparenting," and it is quite something else to live it. It takes a strong woman to allow me a place in her newly created family, and it's something that Jenifer doesn't get enough credit for.

I was a stepmother for 15 years. It's a tricky place to be, a parent to a child who is not yours, who lives most of the time with another family. I was so young when I became a stepmom and I had no idea what I was doing at all. I know what it's like to fall in love with someone that you are just intoxicated with and then have to deal with this whole other family that existed before you got there. It's hard. It's far from romantic. But from the day Jenifer met my kids, she has loved them as her own. I am beyond grateful for that.

My therapist pushed back on me this week about this. Do I really expect that someday when and if I ever meet someone and fall in love again, that this person will just be on board with the fact that I consider my ex-husband and his wife and her kids my family? The answer to that is yes. Yes, mythical boyfriend of the future, this is my family. This is my circus, these are my monkeys. We don't do everything together-the girls and I do things, and the girls do things with Nick and Jenifer individually and as a family and every other which way-but we do some things together as a family. The fact is, strange as it sounds, we love each other. In the DivorceCare workshop they have an entire section related to reconciling. What I took away from that is not that it will ever be possible for Nick and me to reconcile our marriage to return to what it was. But I can, and hopefully have, reconcile within my heart our new normal, our new reality. Accepting what is in the past is past, and enjoying my life today as it exists.

Is it always easy? No. But it gets easier every time we spend time together, figuring out how best to do this, learning which of us is good at what so that these children feel like they got the best that all of their parents had to give.

Is it weird? Probably. Is it unique? Possibly. Is it crazy? I don't think so.

It's us. It's who we have become. Ohana means family. Forever.