Saturday, 20 July 2013

My mistress

I realised that Stratford Festival in particular, theatre in general, is my mistress. I'm ok with that.  Stratford makes me think, makes me prioritize, puts my heart on my sleeve to rediscover what has been hidden for so long. Stratford gives me a hug when I need it. It kicks me in the gut when I need it, too. It never disappoints me and fills my heart with hope.

There are far worse things I could be doing far worse things with my life. Plus, I almost always have one of my kids with me. It's not as if I am abandoning them while I am off cavorting. I think I have only been to Stratford twice this summer alone. One was for Romeo and Juliet. The other was Tommy.

Plus, the youngest had their play, The Grunch, until just before school ended. This week, 3/4 kids volunteered for Driftwood Theatre's Bard's Bus Tour. They were ushers, greeters, and helped Steven at the concession stand. Oh, Cordelia loved helping and being around someone who let her be her, and let her help out. She had a blast.

It is a great season so far at Stratford. The boy who played Charlie Bucket last year in their production of Willy Wonka plays one of the 10 year old Tommy's. Luke played his dad last year. I still need to take the kids to see him. I had to see it first. With a molestation scene, and 10 year old Tommy being brought to a prostitute by his dad, I had to make sure they'd be ok with seeing Josh up there. It's pretty benign, those scenes. I still need to bring them. Dakota was on stage with Josh, too, in The Music Man.

Tommy itself is quite the spectacle (don't see it if you have a concussion). The singing is extraordinary. Jeremy Kushnier has a most incredible voice. Well, all of the cast does. Paul Nolan, who played Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar, plays Cousin Kevin is fantastic. He is quite versatile. Kira Kuloien as Mrs Walker has the poise of a mother of that time. She's hopeful and gentle with Tommy (Josh). I adore her. And wow - is she beautiful! And, of course, there is Lee Siegel. We love Lee.

Romeo and Juliet has grown on me. Cordelia had tweeted Antoni Cimolino last year requesting Stratford to do it this season. Coincidence? She takes all the credit. We saw the show May 1 in all her glory. Jonathan Goad is perfection as Mercutio. Sara Topham is adorable and heartbreaking as Juliet. Daniel Briere is a wonderful Romeo (and quite the rock star at the stage door - great hair cut). Kate Hennig plays The Nurse in all her daftness incredibly well. Antoine Yared`s Paris is fantastic. I always thought of Paris as a bit of a priss, but he doesn`t play him like that at all. Tyrone Savage plays Tybalt. I don`t think there are many actors at Stratford with his swagger and projection. I love watching him onstage.

I`ve seen this play 2 more times since May. The third time I was struck dumb. I don`t know what changed, but it became magical on that stage. It`s like fairy dust from Queen Mab was sprinkled over it. It has more finesse, but also much more heart. It captivated me like I didn't expect.

The Three Musketeers is good fun. it starts off with the sound of a sword fight. In my family, that demands attention and begs to be seen multiple times. Luke Humphrey knocked my socks off as D'Artangnan. It's a great show for children of all ages, like the circus, except here, it's costumes and swords and love - not clowns (thank goodness). It's great to see Mike Shara on stage again. Cordelia really to a liking to him in The Matchmaker last year.

Going back to my childhood, Blithe Spirit was one of the first plays I saw with my mom. It is the show I was most looking forward to this season. It certainly did not disappoint. Seana McKenna can do no wrong. As Madame Arcati - wow. I will only ever see her in the role from now on. Michelle Giroux (possibly distant relative because my maiden name is Giroux - she's also Graham Abbey's wife) was out of this world (no pun intended). The command she has of her voice, the tones of her voice, lead me along like a puppy after treats. Sara Topham (young Juliet in R&J) transformed herself into an angry and controlling wife by play's end. I want to steal her costumes. Well, the patterns of her costumes. It was also funny seeing Ben Carlson be picked on by 2 very strong female characters. I want to go back.

I want to go back to Blithe, but I need (read NEEEED) to go back to Waiting for Godot. I won tickets and took Luke, who is almost 12. It was his turn to go since his siblings had already been this season. I had trepidation bringing him to a Samuel Beckett play, but I am very glad I did. Godot is a master class in acting. It got my heart racing (Randy Hughson). Made me cry (my favourite from last year as Pistol, the Swooney Tom Rooney). Made me raging mad (Brian Dennehy). Made me wince and feel melancholy (Steven Ouimette).  And my Luke? He got it. He understood the play.

I've been going to theatre my entire life, except for maybe the first 5 or 6 years. This is by far, the best production I have seen. I wish I was a wordsmith. I knew by the cast that it was going to be a remarkable production, but in my imagination (and I have a large and healthy imagination), I could not have envisioned anything close to this. When can I go back?

A note about our trips to stage doors. Actors and actress at Stratford are kind, patient, and very loving to the kids when I bring them to the doors (I never go by myself). I see it that the kids need to understand that they actors aren't their characters (important for Cordelia last year after 42nd Street and Sean Arbuckle). The kids can ask questions, which sounds pretty basic. But, if you are a child, or a shy teenager, speaking to the stars of show takes courage, takes them out of their safety zone. While I may be the one who starts the conversation with the actor/actress, they always turn the conversation to the kids, without fail. I love them for that. Sure, I get my own questions in and make small talk, too, but the focus is on the kids and them. It teaches them that actors or actresses really are just regular people with high profile jobs. They encourage the kids to keep up their acting (Tom Rooney made sure to get Luke talking about doing Shakespeare) and they encourage me to keep bringing the kids.

Theatre teaches so many things about life, important lessons that people would be hard pressed to learn in more singular professions. Teamwork (cast AND crew), trust, learning about others you work with, or on the pages of the plays, being ready and available, reliability, fun...the list goes on. We have never met anyone who has not been patient, even if they were in a rush. The kids learn that they are important to people. That people will listen and take the time to get to know them. And thank them for coming.  The kids will remember that feeling more than anything, I would wager. They have their favourites - all of them.

I'm off to play a board game with the eldest boys and my mom. We are going to play crokinole. That is a blast from the past. I don't think I've played since I was 12. This should be fun. Next post will be about Driftwood Theatre and what we are doing in Kids4Bard this year. We are having a BLAST!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Long night's journey into day

Life has changed for the better. Decisions which I made a year ago, I am now seeing fruit and life is wonderful. I am not saying things are easy by any means - no one has an easy go in life. The home life I have with my children is full of peace and contentment, ignoring, of course, the inherent nature of those waving teenage years. Life is good.

I feel a bit odd sharing very personal information, but I also feel a need to share my journey. I am not sharing to look for pity or sympathy. I share because maybe someone else feels stuck. Maybe someone else feels low and is barely hanging on.

I do not regret my marriage...not because of the incredible children which came from it, but rather because what I came away from it with: strength, dignity, some self-worth (still working on that), knowledge about mental health issues, boundaries, compassion...knowing where to end it.

You see, my ex-husband was patient, kind, caring, patient, and loving when we married. I had a list of desirable traits I wanted in a husband, and he had everything on that list. I felt blessed and very lucky. No one asked me out in high school. Not that I was ugly (hopefully). I was told by a few of my crushes after high school graduation that they were too scared or nervous to ask me out. One, Darren, even had the audacity to say he wanted to take me to prom, but thought I would say no. Darren was a dear friend who was also tall, dark, dimpled, and gorgeous - easily the best looking guy at school. When he told me that he wanted to ask me to prom (he said that the following summer) but did not, I punched him in the gut. I thought no one wanted me. I thought I was ugly or undesirable. The date I had at prom was awful. I really should have just went by myself. I would have had a far better time.

I also was told 5 years ago (2008) that I was the only one in high school that had no enemies, that people wanted to be their better selves when they were around me. The president of the student council and the most popular person in the school told me that. I thought she hated me.

So, when my ex asked me out, I felt special. I felt wanted. He treated me great! He bought me hockey cards, baked me cookies, sat on my bed while I wrote my final essays for university with no compaints. He even listened to Into the Woods with hardly a complaint. None. I felt like I found someone who would give me unending support in my career, whatever I thought that would be. He loved watching me be me.

Except when we traveled by car. We always had to listen to his music, which I kind of liked because it was broadening my musical tastes. Plus, he did not like my singing, especially the high notes. I gave him a headache. The bugger. I can sing, not good enough to be onstage, but I can sing. He .... could not. Still cannot. But I held my tongue because he was so patient and kind and helpful. Love is blind...I thought the trade-offs were worth it.

Things started taking a turn 3 years into the marriage. I feel like such a sap. But you see, my mom has a mental health issue. The way the ex started to treat me was not so different as she treated me. It felt normal to me. While what the ex did was more severe than my childhood, it breaks down simply, to this

If you do not do or wear or watch or go _____________________ then you do not love me. And I will tell you how that makes me feel until I go too far.

Of course, they were not this straightforward. It was not so blatant. There was much manipulation. Much control. Much guilt.

I realised I was being emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially abused only 8 years ago, but it felt wrong. The ex-to-be loved me. He only wanted what was best...I came to realise that was wrong in the months and years which passed.

I have actually been working on this stage of my life for over 4 years, 4 years out of 15. I feel stupid.

8 years ago, the ex was diagnosed with a mental health disorder, which, when looked at in a certain light, made complete sense of his actions. There were the grandiose thoughts (seen as me always being wrong), the spending sprees, the bursts of energy, or the complete absence of energy. It made the control and manipulation almost look reasonable.

So I waited...I waited for the right medication, the right dose, the right therapist. I waited for him to be ready for marriage counseling. I had sympathy for him while he ran from it (counselling) - 3X.

Then I heard, it was always my fault because in counseling, all the issues in the marriage revolved around his actions towards the kids and I. He said he was not ready to face his failures. So I had to wait. Again.

The last time that happened was 2012. I knew it was going to be my last attempt at fixing us. I kept that to myself because I wanted to see a real change in him because he wanted to change, not because I was going to file for divorce (as happened before). But again, I heard it was all my fault, that yes, he had failings, but I had to be patient and help him through it.

Not anymore.

I got my life in order and he moved out complete with guilt trips, manipulations, threats...but they held no weight anymore. I was free.

The sun rose on the new life I worked so hard to ensure for my kids, who also had their share of control and guilt from their dad, but that is their story to tell. It was hell for them. For years, I lacked strength to protect them - I was depleted. One day, after a particularly bad verbal tirade by the ex, my then 11 year old son looked at me and said, "Mom, why didn't you protect me?"

That is still the worst moment of my life. I will carry that failure with me forever.

From that moment, I have worked to ensure he knows that I am protecting him - protecting him with everything in my arsenal.

In no way has this past year been easy but damn it all - it is worth it. I would love to have started this journey years ago, but I lacked strength. I have worked long and hard on filling up my spirit to get to this point. I could not have done it earlier.

Now, the house has no more egg shells. When you walk in the doors, it feels different. It's as if you can actually feel the peace which dwells here. There are no more fears of talking about nonsensical things. No more fears of giving a differing opinion. No more fear of singing.

No more fears.

The sun has risen on a new day...a new life without fear of being me. A new life where my kids feel no fear within our walls.

And it is just beginning...

Sunday, 31 March 2013

I really am reading

I don't have access to a computer. It's hard to type a whole blog on my phone.

Right now, I'm reading Duddy Kravitz. I haven't read it since high school. It is surprising how much I remember in 25 years - and how much I forgot. A man without land is nobody. How twisted that became in Duddy's head.

I also read: A Handmaiden's Tale for the first time. But that was back in November! A very feminist book, to be sure, but makes you look at our culture and society differently, especially from my mind as a midwife. The birth scene was powerfully written. I discovered myself humming along with them.

Waiting for Godot: huh...not quite sure what to say about this. There are some excellent one liners that ring true in life. Stratford is putting it on this year. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe it will be like Shakespeare where it is best understood live?

Who Has Seen the Wind? I have always adored this book. What I remember most is the gopher tail scene. It breaks my heart how it is written.

A Long Day's Journey into Night. First time. Wow! I loved this. There are some great quotes to live by. I'll post them later. A brilliant play that shows very clearly the downward spiral of mental illness and addictions. Incredible.

Let's see: Romeo & Juliet (I don't know how many times), Measure for Measure (1st time), Merchant of Venice (2nd time, first time in almost 30 years -grade 8).

I read more, but I can't remember right now. OH!! Our Babies, Ourselves. It looked at evolution, biology, culture & society and how they each mould our outlook on life. Western society is incredibly self-centred, egotistical, and against what our biology has programmed us to be. Awesome read! Changed me. We need to stop looking at cultural practises from a Western viewpoint which makes us look "right" and them "wrong." It's so good...

I also read 2 full Thornton Wilder plays:: The Matchmaker & Our Town. I tried to read By the Skin of Our Teeth...I truly tried but found it unreadable. I made it to the 2nd half. I had such hopes for it when it had a talking dinosaur...I could not finish it.

I think that's it for now.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Back to my Reading

The title of my blog is Inspiteofmyreading. I have been doing a lot of reading, it's just not apparent from my pitiful posts so far this winter...and fall, too, I suppose. I do have a life outside of Stratford's season. Honestly. It has taken me a while to get into my groove, fill that void. There's reading, went through a Simple Plan stage (Save You is in my top 5 songs of all time probably because it is the song that rings truest to my heart and life), but also I've started watch - GASP - Canadian tv on CBC. I had no idea we had such wonderful shows on our government funded television (outside This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Rick Mercer Report - among the funniest shows I've ever watched - watch skits on Youtube).

And my dear kids keep me sane....mostly: 2 teens and 2 tweens are the best of me and get the better of me.

I know I've complained that I don't get enough time on a computer to write. I am books/plays behind in my posting. I need to make this a priority. I feel like I have to reread the books I've read since November again because I forget what moved me. And, as usual, I have lots to say about them (Handmaid's Tale was a great read from the birthing eyes of mine) plus A Long Day's Journey Into Night, and Who Has Seen the Wind, and the Shakespeare always flitting around in the back.

High school English is now completed for Dakota. He didn't get to read Merchant of Venice nor and novels by any Canadians (Richler, Atwood, Davies, etc). I guess that will be up to me to have him read. My little library has slowly been growing in size the past couple of months, so there will be lots of books to read.

Braeden seemed to easily get into his English, minus memorizing lines from the Bard.  He learned a lot reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I wish he had written down how he felt while reading it.

Luke & Cordelia are working their way through Romeo & Juliet: sword fighting and romance are perfect for both of them. I wonder if Cordelia realizes they die at the end yet?

So, to stop my unblogging of books I read, I decided to work on the most recent, then work back.

And this brings me to today. I finished a fantastic book by the equally fantastic Brian Haner. He is Artist Formerly Known as Guitar Guy, from Jeff Dunham's show.

Brian has always been a favourite of ours. We've tried a couple of times to see him when he's been in our area with Dunham to no avail due to PR responsibilites. But he was always sweet to us by email. When we had our fire, I asked him if he wouldn't mind sending a donation for a fundraiser (when there was one planned for us) and we received the aigned cds before we moved into our more permanent home. The kids were ecstatic. We saw Brian & Jeff in Toronto (Brian played O Canada behind his back - buy it on iTunes!), plus Jeff and I saw them in Buffalo. Word of advice - don't see a comedian on the same tour twice. It's really not as funny the second time.

The kids & I also posted a video for Brian's "Grandma was a Racist" with the kids singing it to my mom. The quality is horrible. The house is a mess but we had fun. Geeze, Cordelia may have been 5 or 6. The song is hilarious and makes some great points about how words can stay with you, but they don't have to control who you become...and revenge is sweet!

A week after the fire, Jeff up and left - well, there's a lot to that story, but I won't divulge it here.  Mental illness is ... well, I won't swear here either. Jeff was supposed to meet up with us for Thanksgiving, but backed out. His dad was in his last days in Hospice. I don't know if he went to see his dad or not. I just know I had 4 broken hearted children who needed some fun in their lives.

We went for a drive to Long Point, Ontario, it's a world biosphere protected zone or something like that. While we were driving, we listened to Brian's Fistfight  At the Wafflehouse.  "Thanksgiving" made us almost pee ourselves, knowing that even if we were having a screwy holiday, there probably were other families in worse states than us. I'm pretty sure we listened to the entire album, twice, even with innocent little ears in the van. We had plans to do another video for SpongeBob, got away from us. We laughed and that's all that mattered. I took a few great pictures that day, with smiles on their faces. These are my favourites:

Dakota and Braeden were camera shy. Shy is not in Cordelia's vocabulary.

We had a good Thanksgiving with a family from church whose extended family had children the same ages as ours. SO much food! It was a great day filled with laughter and love. Come to think of it, we had 2 Turkey Days...the people who put us up after the fire (or put up with us) fed us with as much love as food. We were very blessed that holiday weekend.

Anyway, that's our brief history with Brian Haner :-)

A few months ago, he released another book (he wrote Carney Man, too, but I've been nervous to read that one), called Ginny Reb.

You have to understand that Brian is a comedian. I really didn't know what to expect, other than in a tweet he mentioned that he was a history buff.

Brian wrote this book, from a young woman's point of view about her life during the Civil War. I love the Civil War and history (yes, I even took a couple of US history classes in University because, let's face it, American history is more exciting than Canadian - but I think Russia has us both beat: Russian history class was awesome).

Ginny Reb is a mixture of Titus Andronicus, Cymbeline, Mulan, and Somewhere in Time. Strange but wonderful. Ginny is a woman my daughter can look up to. I look up to her. She didn't need a knight on a white horse to save her. She saves herself - and the men, a real force to be reckoned with. I love her dearly.

The research Brian put into it...I can't imagine how long (question 1, Brian). The guns, clothes, battles, strategic lines - incredible detail - even down to what rations would be, how much ammo they'd carry.

But the book does not get bogged down in superfluous detail. It enriches the story. You can see the colour of the dirt, what the tents looked like, how soldiers treated those on or off their side.

This is where the book has its centre: it draws moral lines on the ground. It's not a book about right/wrong. It's a book about how an environment can change a person, how it can make the fight or flight response occur. Brian does an incredible job, not rationalising really, but explains how a person could become...more or less than who they really are. Circumstances happen in everyone's life where you need to make a choice - to die (inside, not just a physical death) or to fight (others, own instincts).

Question 2 to Brian would be, what side of the war was he trying to explain? It's not just about slavery. That is paramount in his writing - and in history. People focus on that, but it's about land, customs, societal norms...come to think of it, this is what the Idle No More movement is about, what First Nations rights are about. Hmmm...I'll think about that comparison some more and dissect my thoughts later.

There are some scenes which young eyes shouldn't read. I'll let Braeden read it. He's 15, but I wouldn't go younger than that. It's not graphic per se, it just kicks your heart in. I don't know how I'd recover from what happens to Ginny.

Question 3 - why didn't she open the letter? 4 - why no midwife (assuming they left when soldiers were coming in). 5 - Was there a women like this in that War?

Whatever you may think of Brian's music and lyrics, his portrayal of race relations is heart stopping, for good and bad. There is a scene in a church that brought tears to my eyes.

My mom raised me going to Emancipation Days in Amherstburg, Ontario. I worked at a museum which was said to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. I was honoured to work there (odd story - my mom worked there 10 years prior!)

This book is a quick read, even with me playing board games with the kids in between chapters. It only took 2-3 days to read.

The story about the watch made me sigh. The story about the letter baffles me. There is a brutal rape scene - be warned. No vocabulary was given to describe what exactly was done but hearing the thoughts from her father during it ripped my heart out, then and after when it was ...I don't want to give away too much. There is always fallout from a rape. Brian really understood what he wrote, even if he's a man. How he could write about the consequences from a man's perspective, and a woman's...I don't know how he did it (question 7?). Well done, Brian. I've had to counsel women after a rape (kinda comes with my job). Their fears are well explained in Ginny Reb. It actually does a damn fine job of it. I'm afraid to ask Brian how he knows those emotions (as well as the men who did it, or supported her after). I don't think I want to know.

If you want to buy the book, please go to to order. It's only $15 and WELL worth the money. AND he will sign it for you. You will be happy you did. If there is a young woman in your life, buy it for her. Ginny is a great heroine for any girl to look up to.

I have some favourite quotes, but I'll post another day, very profound statements that I shared with the boys immediately. I have to find them again before Braeden starts in.

I'm almost inclined to buy Carney Man. That song has some risqué parts, innuendoes mostly, that I'm not sure I'd enjoy if expanded on in a book. I'm not a 50 Shades-typereader. But if the book is like this, sign me up!

The only parts missing for me were: no midwife, the breastfeeding (you'd have to read the book to understand). Also, I would have liked to have read the discussion between Ginny and General Lee. That would have been entertaining.

Remarkable book by a great person (we've only communicated by email or twitter - is he really who he says he is? LOL).

I asked Brian to sign the CD to the kids, but he signed the book for me. Wonderful surprise. Nya:weh, Brian.

Let me know if you read it. Then we can talk more openly.