Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happiness Indeed


"Life is pleasant,
Life is simple ...
I have everything I need -
Life is happiness indeed."
Stephen Sondheim

DAY 356:  Life is very good at the moment ... happiness indeed ... and I'm grateful. 

The weather is starting to cool and I've been able to open the windows wide at night and breath the fresh night air while sleeping.  And, boy, do I sleep ... the past two nights, I've slept like a rock - eight full uninterrupted hours each night! 

This morning I awoke to an extra $1500 in my bank account courtesy of an unexpected merit pay bonus that I had not even considered receiving this year.  As a result, my small credit card balance was paid off (with money left to spare) and I'm once again "debt-free." 

I have all of my lessons and school work planned and finished through the end of NEXT week - and that includes all of my grading and all handouts, tests, and quizzes for that time period (written AND copied)! 

For the past month and a half, I've been watching my diet - eating completely vegetarian and as much organic as my local Publix and neighborhood natural foods store will allow.  I also gave up diet (and regular, for the most part) sodas - the much tougher choice, but after a week or two, I was fine ...  So, I certainly feel much healthier, particularly since I'm no longer eating a lot of late-night post-rehearsal junk.

When the school day is finished, I can go home and RELAX for the rest of the evening.  I get in my jammies pretty early and do next to nothing for most of the night.  It's really quite wonderful NOT having to deal with any theatre projects for a change!  It's been a long time coming ... since January 2010 ...

So ... there are only two things missing - exercise and someone with whom to share this contented and happy life.  The first I can and WILL do something about, the second will happen when and if it happens.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Road Ahead


"Don't try to think what move might be best;
Use the heart that beats within your breast.
Never rest! Don't quit while you're ahead.
Sing out: 'There's more in store for me!'"
Rupert Holmes

DAY 355:  The road ahead, at least for the next week and a half, looks sunny and carefree.  I'm grateful that I've managed to have all of my lesson planning finished through the end of NEXT week - this includes having all of my handouts, quizzes, and tests written and copied.  And did I mention all of my grading is finished, too?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sometimes It Does


"Spending every dime
For a wonderful time.
Now, if you're blue
And you don't know where to go to -
Why don't you go where fashion sits?
Puttin' on the Ritz ..."
Irving Berlin

DAY 354:  I got some great news today that I wasn't expecting!  I'm grateful to report that I'll be getting the annual Merit Bonus in a couple of days ... a substantial amount.  Since I taught mostly "standard" level students last year, I didn't think I'd qualify for the bonus since it is based on State test scores.  I guess they did better than I thought they would!  Thankfully, this bonus will allow me to pay off the small balance I have on one credit card (Best Buy, of course) and continue my comfortable "debt-free" lifestyle ...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Box Office Champ


"I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls.
You brought me fame and fortune
And everything that goes with it.
I thank you all ..."
Queen

DAY 353:  I just found out today that my production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee broke the previous box office record at the theatre, playing to 100%-plus capacity for all but one performance.  So ... three productions directed at three different theatres in 2010 ... two of them were awarded "Best Production of the Season," and now the third is crowned the All-Time Box Office Champ.  I'm grateful for a very successful year of directing!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Drama-Free Zone


"Take off your makeup,
The party's over,
It's all over,
My friend ..."
Betty Comden and Adolph Green

DAY 352:  Well, it's finally finished ... the THIRD production that I directed in 2010 closed last night.  It was an "interesting" weekend of theatre ... most of it off-stage ... and I'm VERY grateful that I'm now OFFICIALLY drama-free, in all its forms, for at least another six weeks (and maybe more, depending on the results of an audition in early November).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ghost Light


"Success is like failure,
It's how you perceive it.
It's what you do with it,
Not how you achieve it ..."
Stephen Sondheim

DAY 351:  As my final production of 2010 closes this evening, I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to direct three financially and critically-successful shows at three different theatres this year.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Greener Grass Ain't


"Ah, the grass is always greener
On somebody else's front lawn ..."
Lee Adams

DAY 350:  So, we're a month into the new school year ... number 27 for me ... and it's been a pretty terrific year so far.  I'm trying some new things and they're working pretty well ... all in all, a big improvement from the past couple of years.  SO, I'm grateful that I turned down the offer to teach at a new school this year!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumnal Equinox



"Try to remember
The kind of September
When life was slow
And, oh, so mellow ..."
Tom Jones

DAY 349:  September 23 ... the Autumnal Equinox ... the official beginning of Fall.  In astronomical terms, it's when the sun's rays are shining directly on the Equator and the length of day and night (at least at the Equator) are the same.  I'm grateful for Fall - it's my favorite season of the year.

When I lived in Connecticut, autumn was marked by a distinct, crisp, and totally refreshing chill in the air ... not frigid cold, but just enough for a light coat and enough to get your blood pumping.  There's a smell of fireplace smoke coming from chimneys and then, of course, there's that INCREDIBLE display of leaves.

I do miss New England autumn ... it's still consistently in the upper 80's and it will probably be a while before there's anything that even resembles "cool."  I'm waiting!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

History Got Sexypants


"A wise woman once wrote
That illness is not metaphor,
So why do I feel sick
When I look at you?
There is this illness in me
And I need to get it out ..."
Michael Friedman

DAY 348:  One of the things that excites me the most, and for which I'm particularly grateful, is the release of a new Off-Broadway or Broadway cast recording.  It's like Christmas when the CD arrives at my door, typically courtesy of Amazon.  Today, I received the recording of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.  This is one that I've been waiting for ... when I was in New York last April, it had just hit the stage at the Public and was taking audiences by storm.  I wish I had been able to see it, but it's opening on Broadway in mid-October (after previews that began this week) ... so maybe, just maybe ... 

It sounds like the kind of wildly theatrical presentation that I love so much - a short anachronistic history of Andrew Jackson featuring, believe it or not, an emo-rock score!  The show's tag line ... "History just got all sexypants."  From the press release - "It asks the question, is wanting to have a beer with someone reason enough to elect him? What if he's really, really hot?"  Sounds like fun, huh?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Time In a Bottle


"But there never seems
To be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them ..." 
Jim Croce

DAYS 341-347:  Well, I've done it again ... I've let a full week go by without a post in My OhGeeJay.  The days are counting down ... only 18 days left until my Journal's one-year mark.  I've been keeping track of what I wanted to write each day this past week (that I never got around to writing).  A number of them happen to be about time, in one way or another.  Here goes!

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15
I can't remember the last time I was really sick ... I'm grateful for a pretty solid constitution.  What's better than that?  How about a cold that lasts TWO DAYS!  I had a terrible sore throat that kept me out of school this past Monday and I was CERTAIN that it would lead to a full-blown cold or flu.  It's standard for the beginning of a school year being surrounded once again by sneezing, coughing, nose-blowing students.  By tonight, though, it is nearly GONE!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 16
This "old dog" is trying a new trick this school year.  I'm offering my extra help sessions about an hour BEFORE the first bell two mornings a week.  Now I'm FAR from a "morning person" and this is a very radical idea, I'll tell you that!  It is awfully nice, however, to be able to fly out the door each afternoon following the final bell.  So what am I grateful for?  Since I'm currently theatre and rehearsal-free, I can get to bed quite early so that getting up for the "dark-o'clock" help session is not that much of a trial.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17
I'm grateful for the comments I'm already getting from students that run something along the lines of "Mr. Lipp, I've never really learned anything in my math classes until THIS year!"  It's really nice to hear ...

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
It's been a couple of weeks since I've been free in the evenings and have stopped the late-night post-rehearsal junk-food binging and it's been bothering me a bit that my weight had not budged, particularly since I've started eating a much healthier, organic, vegetarian diet.  The good news?  My weight has started to drop again as of this morning!  I'm grateful my body has finally "figured it out" ...

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19
Whew!  That was close!  Last night as I was entering a local Best Buy, an "ex" of sorts was exiting on the other side.  I'm fairly certain he didn't see me.  About a year ago, I was dating this person whom I trusted completely and was starting to fall for.  COMPLETELY unexpectedly, I was unceremoniously dumped for someone I discovered this total heel was dating at the same time.  I was incredibly hurt and depressed for a short time.  I'm grateful to say that I did not feel one twinge of ANYTHING when I saw him last night, except maybe for pity.  He was accompanied by the "other guy," and he's HARDLY a looker.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
I haven't made a secret of the fact that I do use online dating sites.  I obviously haven't had much success, but I have noticed one thing.  Boy, I look good for nearly 50!  The guys around my age look SO much older than I do.  I'm grateful for looking youthful ... it often surprises people when I tell them my age.  Good Irish and Austrian genes?  Staying out of the sun?  Whatever it is, it works!!

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
Last night was my TWENTY-FIFTH Open House as a teacher.  I've been in the school system for 27 years, but I don't count the two years of temporary insanity that I spent "downtown" in the School Board building.  I'm grateful that I've started to teach children of former students ... it's great to see these "kids" who are now adults with kids of their own and it certainly helps to have built-in supporters (something that's hard to come by with parents these days)!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Walk Alone


"I walk a lonely road,
The only one that I have ever known.
Don't know where it goes,
But it's home to me and I walk alone.

I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams,
Where the city sleeps
And I'm the only one and I walk alone.

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me.
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating.
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me -
'Til then I walk alone.

I'm walking down the line
That divides me somewhere in my mind ...
On the border line
Of the edge and where I walk alone.

Read between the lines -
What's f-d up and everything's alright.
Check my vital signs
To know I'm still alive and I walk alone.

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me.
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating.
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me -
'Til then I walk alone."
Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt

DAY 340:  One of the joys of music (particularly musical theatre), are those moments when the music or lyrics unexpectedly and completely reflect your mood and feelings at the time you're listening to it.  I recently ordered the Broadway Cast Recording of American Idiot, a "punk rock opera" featuring the music of the band Green Day.  I've been listening to it over the past couple of days and yesterday I came upon this song.  I'm grateful for such an expression of how I've been feeling recently, and it does help to hear those feelings expressed so beautifully in song.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sub For Sicko


"You can spray her wherever you figure
The streptococci lurk.
You can give her a shot for whatever's she's got,
But it just won't work."
Frank Loesser

DAY 339:  I'm grateful that I don't get sick very often ... in fact, I can't remember the last time I was.  HOWEVER, I developed a seriously sore throat yesterday that kept me awake most of the night.  I'm also grateful that I have a job where I can go online and request someone TO DO THE JOB FOR ME just an hour or two before I'm due at work.  How great is that, huh?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Vegetarian


"The day that I became a vet'rinarian,
I had a sudden overwhelming wish -
To be a pure and simple vegetarian
And give up eating all that meat and fish."
Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

DAY 338:  OK ... so I've been doing this vegetarian thing for over a month now and I've been VERY successful.  I haven't touched ANY meat in all that time.  While I was in Ireland, I read a marvelous book called Skinny Bitch, which extolled the virtues of an organic vegan lifestyle.  In this book, there were a couple of chapters dealing with the horrors of slaughterhouses, along with the dreadful treatment and regulation of livestock in this country ... I was sold. 

Now, there was NO way I was going to give up dairy (read CHEESE) or eggs (read BAKED GOODS), so I knew vegan was not the way for me.  Though I'm still considering dropping the dairy as well (for reasons that are explained in the book), I don't think there's any way I'll go totally vegan, which means NO ANIMAL PRODUCTS of any kind. 

The more difficult thing was giving up DIET SODA!  Wow ... has THIS been tough.  The book also had some very convincing arguments against refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, particularly the latter.  They are nothing less than poison.  I learned that firsthand years ago, when I made the discovery that flooding my body with aspartame (Nutrasweet) in the form of cans and cans of Diet Pepsi led to migraines.  I switched to Diet Coke with Splenda, and the migraines went away.  The Skinny Bitch ladies have convinced me that even Splenda isn't healthy.

I'm grateful for my switch to a more healthy diet and lifestyle.  Unfortunately, I have discovered that a vegetarian lifestyle can quickly become a "carbo-tarian" lifestyle and it's HARDLY a method of weight loss unless monitored very carefully.  It's been particularly difficult while doing theatre and its late-night post-rehearsal binging on high-calorie, high-fat food.  But theatre's over for at least a couple of months, and I've vowed to keep my refrigerator fruit and veggie-rich while getting back to exercise (that I love SO much ... oy)!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Eat Pray Love


"Hey, Groceries ...
Believe in love again."
Elizabeth Gilbert

DAY 337:  Today was my first full official day of freedom from ALL responsibilities ... I had NOTHING to do - no errands, no school work, no theatre.  It was MARVELOUS!  Late in the afternoon, I decided I should celebrate having the time to take myself out to dinner and a movie by TAKING MYSELF out to dinner and a movie!  After a healthy salad (so I could have popcorn later without guilt) at my favorite haunt, Jason's Deli, I looked at the movie offerings for the weekend.

I wasn't too excited about anything in the list ... I didn't want a mindless testosterone-induced action flick or a horror movie (though I do like both from time to time).  There were a couple of "chick flicks" in the list - a comedy, "Switch" ... eh ... and "Eat Pray Love," which I surprisingly had heard very little about.  I did know, vaguely, that it was about a married woman pulling up stakes and travelling around the globe to "find herself."  So, swallowing my dislike for all-things-Julia-Roberts, I gave it a go ...

Boy, am I incredibly grateful that I did ... I cried through nearly the entire movie.  It's been quite a long time since a movie has touched me personally and spiritually like this one did - "chick flick" or not.  Elizabeth Gilbert's story definitely resonated with me ... her dissatisfaction with her personal life, her inability to sustain a happy and loving relationship, her feeling that there's "something more" that she needs to find. 

I was fascinated by her quest - to find pleasure (through food, mostly ...) in Italy, then "God" in an ashram in India, then a healthy BALANCE of both in Cambodia.  I've ALWAYS been drawn to Eastern spirituality and religions ... heck, Siddhartha is one of my favorite books.  Through her travels, Liz discovers self-acceptance and most of all, self-forgiveness.  There were such amazing lessons in her story - I fully expect to see the movie again and the book has already been downloaded on my Nook!  For a person who has battled his own demons with unsuccessful relationships, love, loneliness, spirituality, self-loathing, and desertion, it really hit home.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Never Seen Anything Like It


"Big shows 'n small.
We've seen 'em all.
Even seen performers
Who were ten feet tall!
And of them all,
We'd like to make it very, very clear,
That we've never seen anything 
Like what we've seen here!
We've never seen anything like it in our life!"
Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

DAY 336:  I'm not quite sure what happened to my DVD of the 1967 film version of Dr. Dolittle (the only REAL version!), but I ordered a replacement from Amazon that arrived a couple of days ago.  Since then, I've been watching it little by little in the few hours I have between work and rehearsal.

Now, I may be extremely picky about my stage musicals, ususally eschewing the more old-fashioned, traditional Rogers-and-Hammerstein-type fare for the more contemporary, minimal, edgy material, BUT give me a BIG BUDGET OLD-FASHIONED movie musical and I'm in HEAVEN! 

I'm grateful for those wonderful old live-action movie musicals, the likes of which we no longer see, particularly those with scores by the Sherman Brothers, Leslie Bricusse, and Anthony Newley.  Is there ANYTHING to compare to Dr. Doolittle, Willy Wonka, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, et al? 

I've never seen anything like 'em in my life!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

F-R-E-E


"Spell it!
F-R-double-...
No, the long way!
F-R-E-E
FREE!"
Stephen Sondheim

DAY 335:  The light at the end of the tunnel is bright, inviting, and warm!!  Tonight is my LAST rehearsal as a director for 2010!  It's been a non-stop journey since January with three VASTLY different shows in three different theatres.  It's also been a personally, theatrically, artistically, professionally, and financially successful trip ... three powerhouse shows and I'm proud of all three productions. 

But I'm seriously burned out on theatre and directing, and I'm ready for a break.  I will have AT LEAST two months THEATRE-FREE ... free evenings and free weekends.  I'm so grateful to have this free time for myself, but I'm also looking forward to auditioning in November to actually PERFORM in another play!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nicest Kids in Town


"You'll never see them frown
'Cause they're the nicest kids in town."
Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman

DAY 334:  Well, we're almost through the third week of school and things are going VERY well this year!  My classes are large-ish (an average of just over 28), but certainly nothing I can't handle.  Now, I know it's only the third week and kids are typically on their best behavior until they start getting "comfortable," but I have to say I have some great kids this year.  I have had NO "issues" so far ... save one minor disagreement the first day, but that child has been nothing but polite and respectful since then.

Working in an arts magnet high school has its definite advantages.  One of those perks is the students themselves ... and I'm VERY grateful for that.  We absolutely have "the nicest kids in town."  For the most part, they are respectful, friendly, sensitive (though sometimes a bit too), tolerant, and caring.  They can also be overly-vocal, overly-dramatic, and quite unique, but NEVER (or rarely) mean or malicious.  They are often surprising in their individuality, humanity, and openness ... no surprise, however, for these tremendously talented, creative, and intelligent kids. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Sweet to Eat


"Just a spoonful of sugar
Helps the medicine go down
In the most delightful way ..."
Robert and Richard Sherman

DAY 333:  I have a favorite "on-the-way" home treat.  Right around the corner from my house in a strip mall is a "from-scratch" bakery called A Sweet to Eat.  About once or twice a week, I stop there on my way home and pick up a cookie or two ... or three ... and/or maybe a piece of cake ... and/or a cupcake ... well, you get the idea.  They have a limited, but varied, menu each day ... so it's kind of fun to discover what happens to be available each time I go by.  That's a picture of the Reese's Peanut Butter cake above.  Everything I've had has been DELICIOUS and I'm grateful for the "sweet treat" every so often.  They may not be low-fat or low-cal, but at least I know they're made THAT DAY from scratch with only REAL ingredients ... no sign of preservatives or high fructose corn syrup or any other nasties.  YUM!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Eight Days a Week


"Eight days a week
Is not enough to show I care ..."
Paul McCartney and John Lennon

DAYS 325-332:  Where did THAT week go to?  EVERY day I knew what I was going to write in my Online Gratitude Journal, but I just never got around to it.  I supposed I could write them all now and post-date them, but that would be cheating ... SO ... I'm going to offer a week's worth of gratitude in short bits!

MONDAY ... Tonight we had our first volunteer audience members as "guest spellers" in our Spelling Bee rehearsal.  It was loads of fun and it sure added a whole new dimension to the show ... we have two more rehearsals this week, and we plan to have a whole new set of volunteer "contestants" each night!  I'm grateful for friends who will take time out of their evenings to give us a hand ...

TUESDAY ... An unexpected evening off the week before a show opens.  We had some conflicts with some cast members this week, so we're only rehearsing three nights this week.  This is VERY unusual for a theatre production, which usually is in a FULL WEEK's worth of run-throughs the week before you open.  I spent a very quiet evening at home and was very grateful for the peaceful solitude.

WEDNESDAY ... When I got to my car after work today, I noticed that one of my rear tires was almost completely flat.  When I put some air in it on the way home, I noticed the head of the nail which punctured the tire.  SO ... I decided to stop by the tire place after stopping by home (and before rehearsal) to take care of it.  Once there, the "tire guy" showed me just how worn and bald my other tires were.  After a few hours and an $800 bill, I headed off to rehearsal on four new rather expensive SUV tires.  I'm grateful that I didn't discover either the damaged or worn tires the hard way ... at 60-70 miles per hour on the highway heading to or from Orlando last weekend!  I'm also grateful that, at 95,000 miles, my car has probably received its last set of new tires.

THURSDAY ... As I mentioned in earlier posts, I've been directing NON-STOP since January - that's three different shows in three different theatres.  The first two were incredibly successful and I suspect this one will be as well, but I'm VERY burned out on directing.  I'm grateful that in just over ONE WEEK, I will be theatre-free and directing-free for at least a couple of months.  I'm definitely looking forward to it!

FRIDAY ... I'm grateful once again to the Gods of Timing - they've offered me District testing all next week while I'm in final production each night for Spelling Bee!  I couldn't have asked for a better "syzygy"!

SATURDAY ... Today, I watched the Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific that I had taped off PBS on my DVR a few weeks ago.  I saw the show in April 2009, and wasn't fond of it - in fact, I found it rather lifeless and dull.  Imagine my delight and gratitude when I was moved and captivated by the taped performance, courtesy of the original performers, particularly Kelli O'Hara as Nellie Forbush.  And, as always, "This Nearly Was Mine" reduced me to tears ...

SUNDAY ... To quote one of my favorite movies - INCONCEIVABLE!  Our Tech Sunday rehearsal lasted LESS THAN TWO HOURS.  That's unheard of, and I'm immensely grateful to have the majority of my day left to relax and enjoy my free time.

MONDAY ... Is there ANYTHING better than a three-day weekend just a couple of weeks after starting the new school year?  Grateful, grateful I am ...

Back with you on Tuesday, after my DAY OFF TOMORROW!!