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Handel’s Messiah

26 Nov

Part of me doesn’t want to listen to Handel’s Messiah again for at least a year.

Another part of me wants to be back on stage again and again, singing it better each time, and reveling in the fun of the moment, the gorgeous soloists, the lovely accompanying symphony.

Part of me will not miss waking up singing a different chorus every day, wondering which one it will be today that follows me around incessantly.

Another part of me will miss having the background theme songs in my dreams.

I will miss having something to challenge me musically – it had been many, many years since I’d sung in a choir and what will fill that void? I will miss seeing new friends every week. I will miss the anticipation – several decades in the making – of singing this oratorio. For as long as I can remember – probably way back when my parents sang in it when I was a kid, Dad taking the bass solo and Mom the soprano – I have wanted to be a part of The Messiah.

In 10th grade, I missed out on singing the Hallelujah Chorus because I was ill. Had I known that it was a traditional part of the Christmas program at my school (it was my first year there) then I would have dragged myself out of bed and sung my heart out (probably infecting the entire soprano section in the process).

But I didn’t know. And I’ve been bummed ever since.

If I had a better voice – and a lot more ambition – I probably would have sung it long before now, as had many members of the chorus. But as it is, I second-guessed my presence in the rehearsal room every week! But I never wanted to quit. Not once.

As we performed the songs last night – to a sold-out crowd – I tried to enjoy the moment, to soak in the music, the ambiance. I was sitting right behind the bassoons with their fabulous, pure, deep notes, which was enough to practically make me swoon. And as for the soloists – well, I closed my eyes and imagined I was in Carnegie Hall, they were that good.

I wished I was sitting next to my husband so that I could hold his hand and share the moment, but he, a tenor, was much too far away in the 70-some member choir. It was fun singing with him, though. He sings a lot more than I do so I enjoyed the rare chance to at least be in the same group with him.

Handel’s Messiah actually features in our courtship. My parents had invited him over for dinner – it was the first time he met my dad, I think, though he’d met Mom before. He came into the house and we all sat down at the table and The Messiah was playing in the background. My dad turned to him and asked him if he know what the music was.

Colin smiled and replied, “Handel’s Messiah!”

Dad smiled in return and, with his smile, told him he had permission to court his daughter.

Colin swiped his forehead and said, “Phew! I’m just glad it was a well-known piece of music!”

Dad nodded. “You got lucky, young man.”

That all happened close to 20 years ago. Last night, sitting there beneath the bright lights, felt like the culmination of that moment.

At various times throughout the concert I squinted into the crowds and found our children, sitting with a dear friend of mine, and I couldn’t wait to hear what they thought of it all.

When it was all over – after the intermission, after the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra filled the auditorium with the marvelous strains of The Nutcracker Suite in the second half of the program and we’d sung Christmas carols (such a great entrance into the holiday season) and retrieved our coats and returned our music (a sad moment) our kids finally found us and hugged us and told us what they thought. Our youngest, at seven years old, said, “I loved it!” I asked her what bits she liked best. Without a pause she replied, “I don’t know. I slept through most of it.”

And that, my friends, is how our children keep us humble. Because Mom may be having an existential moment. But Lucy, lulled by the beauty of the music, just needed a nap.

Children Shine On Stage With the Missoula Children’s Theater

4 Feb

One year ago, my daughter did something which she had never been able to do before. We’d wanted to do it before…but something always got in the way – like vacation, or busyness…or my memory.

But then, last January, she finally was able to try out and was in the Missoula Children’s Theater’s production of Hansel and Gretel.

This year, she did it again, playing the role of Martha in MCT’s The Secret Garden here in Worthington at the Memorial Auditorium.

I cannot adequately explain how great this experience is for the kids!
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Here’s how it works, for those unfamiliar. Two staff members with MCT lead the production. They travel to different towns – both small and large – to put on these “residency weeks”. The interested kids show up on Monday after school. (Or, as in the case this year in Worthington, on Tuesday because on that Monday all schools across Minnesota were closed due to the extreme cold.) The kids audition and after a short dinner break, they begin rehearsals.

They continue to rehearse every day after school until 8:15 each night.

Then, on Friday and Saturday, they perform. (This year locally they only had one performance, on Saturday, again due to the lack of that Monday’s rehearsal time.)

Canadian Geese...complete with a Canadian vocabulary, eh?

Canadian Geese…complete with a Canadian vocabulary, eh?

The team comes complete with costumes, easy to manipulate and attractive sets, and all the scripts and teaching necessary for the kids to be successful. What emerges is a wonderful performance – funny, age-appropriate, cute-as-all-get-out. Kids from kindergarten through 12th grade are eligible.

It is a fabulous opportunity for kids to gain confidence through inter-personal skills, public speaking skills, and yes, even acting skills! It also gives them experience in theater and even in independence, giving each child a little shove towards self-discipline and self-awareness. They are encouraged through their team work and their personal achievements.

What garden is complete without flowers?

What garden is complete without flowers?

In a town our size, I think that pretty much everyone who auditions gets a part (in fact, they had to cut a few roles this year because there weren’t enough children), but that’s not always the case. However, auditions in and of themselves – even without success at the end – are learning experiences and can be good opportunities in learning how to handle disappointment. Kids need to learn that life doesn’t always give them what they want. The MCT website offers a little wisdom on how to handle the disappointment of a failed audition.

Sheep, foxes, squirrels, and, of course, a robin.

Sheep, foxes, squirrels, and, of course, a robin.

The Missoula Children’s Theater began the early 70’s. It is an international organization. They have around 75 people listed as Tour Staff, meaning that there are approximately 40 teams that travel around, winter and summer.

The Missoula Children’s Theater’s mission statement is,”The development of life skills in children through participation in the performing arts.”

They go on to say this: “MCT…strives to use participation in the performing arts as a vehicle to develop the life skills (social skills, communication skills, self-discipline, a strong work ethic, an understanding of the team concept and self-esteem) necessary to answer the challenges of our time.”

In other words, whatever the skill-level of your child – whether used to performing or compete novices – they can and will grow through the MTC experience.

The humans in The Secret Garden.

The humans in The Secret Garden.

As a parent, it is a thrill to see five intense days culminate in a splendid performance. I encourage everyone, with or without kids in the cast, to attend the show at the end of the week – it’s a great way to encourage the young children of your acquaintance and to spend 60 or so minutes enjoying the fun of a live performance – complete with the happy unexpected joys of children on stage!

Many thanks to Missoula Children’s Theater for their recent visit to Worthington!

Born for the stage!

Born for the stage!

Buckle Up! Summer’s Heading Out.

6 Aug

A friend asked me last week if I’d bought my kid’s school supplies yet. I stopped. Turned. And stared at her. “Umm, excuse me, but what did you say?”

“I was just wondering if you’d bought your school supplies yet,” she repeated, looking a little defensive. “I mean, they’re already being picked through….”

I walked away from that conversation feeling a little ill. How is it possible that summer is almost over and I need to buy school supplies already? I guess I was in denial.

But then I went and spent $150 on supplies and reality hit home.
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But enough about that. I have to say that it’s been a great summer and a lot of the greatness is due to all the hard work that many, many willing adults put in to making a ton of great activities for my kids to participate in. Kids need summer activities. Yes, they need to relax and just hang out but they can’t do that for three solid months. If they did, they and I both would go insane.

And so we signed them up for a few things. Not as many as some years, mind you, but a few, well-chosen things. My oldest two did Summer Band at the middle school and they both loved it. I have never seen my daughter so excited about her band instrument, as she was able to begin playing a “Frumpet” because French Horns simply aren’t marching band instruments. Along with my son on his marching band tuba (read Susaphone), we had several marvelous duets in the evenings and loved every minute of it. Thanks so much to Mr. Anderson and all of the band teachers and helpers involved with that program.

A little Frumpet action.

A little Frumpet action.


My daughter also was able to participate in Summer Orchestra and she enjoyed that very much, remembering what it is like to pick up a viola after quite a few weeks of…I admit it…not doing so. The students were even were able to take a field trip to the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD, which definitely is a place our whole family needs to check out, from the sounds of it. Thanks to Mrs. Loy for a great couple of weeks!

Most recently my two oldest kids enjoyed Kid’s College out at Minnesota West. For four days they experimented, learned, played, created, and soaked in the atmosphere of the college and many willing and capable instructors. Too bad it couldn’t be longer, says this mom!

Not his Susaphone, but you get the idea.

Not his Susaphone, but you get the idea.


Not to be forgotten, our youngest, too, had weekly fun at the Summer Library Program at the Nobles County Library, thanks to all the hard work of Jackie Van Horsen, the children’s librarian. Three Hershey’s kiss gnomes, a caterpillar, an ant, and something that I’m a little unclear as to what it is exactly – still grace our family room with their smiling faces. Her crafts are all smiling, according to her, because she was having a great time making them with her friends at the library.
Library gnomes.

Library gnomes.


There were other activities our kids did – and other activities they should have done (read swimming lessons) – and somehow, all of a sudden, summer is winding down and there is very little I can do about that. Okay, there’s nothing I can do about it, I just like to pretend that maybe there is.

One thing that was very different for us this summer was not being involved with the summer musical at the Memorial Auditorium here in Worthington, as we were for the past two summers. Instead, we were able to sit and RELAX in the audience and enjoy the hard work that the cast and crew of SHREK THE MUSICAL put in over the summer to entertain us all. I intimately understand how much effort it takes to put on such a show, and I appreciate their time and commitment so much. I can’t say that we didn’t miss doing a show a little bit, but mostly, we were just glad to have summer evenings at home. But yes, in case you’re wondering, I’m sure the stage will lure us back one of these summers, if not more than one.
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Summer has been lovely, but all good things must come to an end. School is important, and I guess I’m ready for it, at least as far as my kid’s supplies go. Mentally, though…I’m thinking I’d rather cuddle with my six year old a little longer, savor my coffee on the deck with a good book, watch the kids catch lightning bugs, and have just one more day to sleep in.

But this is my life, at least for a few more years. School supplies, alarm clocks, homework…. Someday I’ll miss all that, they tell me.

For now, I’ll buckle up for the ride.

Didn't catch him flashing, but here is a lightning bug...in all his non-glowing glory.

Didn’t catch him flashing, but here is a lightning bug…in all his non-glowing glory.

One got caught in Boo's hair!

One got caught in Boo’s hair!

Grandpa’s Fun Farm

18 Jun

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I have a favorite place to go here in town. It’s not too far away, it’s bright and cheerful and full of hope, it’s mostly outdoors…but it also has antiques. How could I not like the sound of that?

Grandpa’s Fun Farm – so named, I presume, because of its autumn pumpkin-themed activities for the whole family – is not just a place for fall fun. It’s also a wonderful nursery for all of your flower, plant and tree needs, as well as having an antique-filled barn with prices that are quite reasonable.

Marlyn and Jolene Nystrom are now in their 15th season of running their business, located out on Read Avenue. In June they are open Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm. In July and August they are open Thursday-Friday, 9am – 5pm and Saturday, 9am – 12pm. They are always closed on Sundays. Their animal exhibit (goats, cows, horses, pigs, peacocks, guinea fowl, geese…and more!) is open by appointment during the summer until their fall hours when it is open most every weekend.

If you live around here, don’t wait to visit Grandpa’s Fun Farm just in the fall – go now! They have lovely plants (including ready-to-go hanging baskets and flower pots), many bedding plants and herbs and veggies, trees, bulbs, etc. It’s a feast for the eyes in their five greenhouses and all around the property with lovely flowers in all sorts of wonderful locations!

And the great old barn, filled with many farm-related antiques, shelves and desks and decorative items is a must-see as well. It’s clean and charming and is run by Marlyn and Jolene’s daughter.

So come buy a plant or two, check out the barn, and enjoy your time at Grandpa’s Fun Farm – not just an autumn treat!

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I love the variegated   leaves.

I love the variegated leaves.

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Everywhere you look there are great things to see!

Everywhere you look there are great things to see!

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Part of the fall fun out at the Fun Farm.

Part of the fall fun out at the Fun Farm.

Back home with our plants, the girls and I got to work.

I had two helpers.  One with the camera and one running errands!

I had two helpers. One with the camera and one running errands!

Whose pasty arms and legs are those, anyway?

Whose pasty arms and legs are those, anyway?

Suddenly Everything Seems Possible + Ice Storm Photos

23 Apr
This is what we woke up to the morning after the lights went out.  All the following ice photos are from that first day - all taken through our windows.   The snow photos were the second day, mostly also from our windows.  Finally, on the third day, we went outside as a family and saw the damage first hand.

This is what we woke up to the morning after the lights went out. All the following ice photos are from that first day – all taken through our windows. The snow photos were the second day, mostly also from our windows. Finally, on the third day, we went outside as a family and saw the damage first hand.

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The climbing tree, broken branches frozen to the ground

The climbing tree, broken branches frozen to the ground

Surveying the backyard.

Surveying the backyard.

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The pine trees were like Narnia - only the bad, evil witch part of Narnia.

The pine trees were like Narnia – only the bad, evil witch part of Narnia.

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A few shots around town.

A few shots around town.

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The golf course.

The golf course.

Not exactly a safe place to play right now.

Not exactly a safe place to play right now. I have heard many reports of eye injuries as people clean up the branches all over town.

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Yes, this is a power pole.  Or should I say, was.

Yes, this is a power pole. Or should I say, was.

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Nothing but splintered remains and criss-crossed lines.

Nothing but splintered remains and criss-crossed lines.

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Horray!

Horray!

Our saviors from Wadena.

Our saviors from Wadena.

And so the clean up begins.

And so the clean up begins.

I apologize for not posting these photos sooner…I couldn’t look at them without feeling ill. Seriously. I had to avoid them for a few days to get a little perspective.

The following is what I wrote on Wednesday morning, after the lights came on the night before. Allow me add that the power was back out on Wednesday night for a few hours, but that was because of a tremendous thunderstorm and lightning hitting a transformer…just what we all needed, right? It is Monday night now, almost one week later, and again we’re having snow and wind like crazy. It has been a wild couple of weeks that I really don’t want to re-live. On the good side, people were safe and there were very few injuries – mostly the injuries came later with damage to eyes when people were out cleaning up fallen branches. There are some streets that look like tunnels, the piles of branches are so huge. This will take weeks to clean up…months, perhaps. And years to get back our trees.

HOW MANY TIMES DO WE FLIP ON A LIGHTSWITCH WHILE LOOKING FOR A FLASHLIGHT WHICH WE NEED BECAUSE THE LIGHTS ARE OFF?!!! I think that everyone has done this in their lives.

So many switches were on in our house, and that’s how I knew the power had come back on because there were suddenly lights!

We’ve put away the flashlights. The dishes are gently rocking on the Anti-Bacterial setting in my dishwasher. A load of towels is “cooking” on high heat. I turned on my electric blanket last night, just because I could.

But the TV? You know, I kinda didn’t mind not having the TV on. Not having the internet bummed me out, I admit. But I really don’t have to compulsively check Facebook every half hour in order to be happy.

I tell you what does make me happy, though. Three men from Wadena, Minnesota – a town about 5 hours north of here – who restored our power last night, just two hours shy of one week exactly from when it went out. (The oven clock came back on and read 9:06 – it picked up right where it had left – almost as if time itself had stopped. As if the past week never happened.)

I looked up Wadena on my newly-restored internet and discovered that this town of 4,000ish suffered a terrible E-F 4 tornado three years ago. In other words, these men know what it is to suffer at the hand of nature. They know what it’s like to need help from others. They came down to my town so that they could give back what they received.

I told them, “Thanks for leaving your homes and your families to come down and lend us a hand.” They shrugged and mumbled and waved for my camera.

I am not usually given to dancing. But I danced last night.

Suddenly everything seems possible.

THANK YOU, Mr. Electric Man

16 Apr

Still no electricity. Furnace is acting up because it doesn’t like the generator. The cost of a storm like this is in more than just dollars. It’s in sanity.

Here’s some statistics I heard this morning. I know there are more and perhaps better ones, but this gives you an idea. (I appologize if these numbers are incorrect – this is what I’ve heard as of Tuesday morning.)

One hardware store in this town of 12,000 people has sold $177,000.00 in chainsaws and generators over the past week. That’s just one of the half a dozen or so hardware stores in town.

As of Tuesday morning 991 homes are still without power.

2,000 power poles snapped or otherwise are unusable.

120 linemen have come to help us out, from across Minnesota and even, I believe, from South Dakota. The hotel parking lots (at night only!) are solid with power trucks. The image of all those trucks made me cry. We are so thankful for all that is being done to get us back into the 21st century!

I know, I know – we can live without electricity. We’ve proven that this week. But it sure is nice.

Here’s my daughter’s take on the storm – in her exact words:

Electricity. A necessity we take for granted. The power has been out for 6 days and it still is.

We had a HUGE ICE STORM. Plus we had a SNOWSTORM after that!

There are MANY trees down, all over the place.

Having the power out is scary. Mr. Al Oberloh [the mayor of Worthington] said, “Worthington will never look the same again.” I agree.

I live in the country, so we didn’t have rolling blackouts [as they had in town]. We just had no electricity at all. Our power lines are [broken down] and buried underneath lots of snow.

I believe that the electricity people are pretty AWESOME. They worked for like 24 hours straight to get power back on [for those in town].

The power went out at like 9:00 Tuesday night. It’s still out. Oh well. They have to get other pepole before us.

I think that I will remember this forever.

THANK YOU, ELECTRIC PEOPLE!!!

By Katie O’Donnell. Age 11

Ice, Snow, Devastation, and a Kazoo Band

13 Apr

There are moments in your life that you never forget. When I am old and wrinkled and more gray even than I am now, I will remember this week with tears, with smiles, and, possibly, with laughter.

My son asked me if, like with hurricanes, they name Midwestern Ice Storms. I told him that we didn’t rate that high on the weatherman’s scale.

“But it’s so bad!” he pointed out.

“Yes, it is,” I replied with a wry smile.

It really is so bad.

April usually is a time to anticipate bulbs poking out of the earth, to dig out asparagus recipes, to watch the daily progression of the leaves on the trees, the birds returning to the upper Midwest.

Not this year.

For those who don’t know, Tuesday night, April 9th, 2013, Worthington, Minnesota and the surrounding area experienced a terrible ice storm which left about 1.5 inches of ice on the trees, followed by 8+ inches of snow on Wednesday night. I live out in the country on ten acres of trees and stream and farmland. We lost electricity Tuesday night. Still don’t have it back as of Saturday afternoon. We have a generator – a reliable one – as of Friday night. The one we had, which came with our house 8 years ago, had never been put to the test before. Sure, we’d used it a few times for a few hours – but nothing like this.

It failed the test.

So finally, last night, my husband forked over $700 for a brand-new (and much quieter) one, so that we can have heat and toilets that flush and food that won’t give us food poisoning.

Can’t wash our clothes. Can’t run the dishwasher. No internet. No TV. (My son’s comment on these terrible facts: “Mom, what did you and Dad DO all day when you were kids?”)

But all of that pales in comparison with what’s happened outside of our windows.

Total tree devastation. It’s a war zone, a bombing site, an unrecognizable horizon.

And no, I have no photos for you yet – not until I get power back and can download all of my photos onto my PC. I’m in town right now, at my favorite hang-out, BenLees Café. It’s a refuge here from the sadness out my window.

My kids have named all of their favorite trees. There’s the Hosanna Tree, so named because its leaves resemble the palm fronds on Palm Sunday. (I think it will survive.) There’s the Shady Tree aka the Climbing Tree. It’s our favorite. My girls and I cried yesterday when we stood in front of it. I don’t think there’s any way it will survive. And then there’s Mr. and Mrs. Maple Tree – Mrs. Tree is doomed. Mr. Tree might make it – but it looks like he got a terrible hair cut.

And then there are 100 more trees – give or take – which have suffered the indignities of a very angry giant stomping through our yard and tearing twigs and branches off and throwing them willy-nilly all over the yard.

At least that’s what it feels like.

And sounded like.

Oy, vey, the sounds of the crackling ice when you stood outside in the silence of zero electricity. It was almost like running water, only then you realized that everything was frozen and it was just the constant crack of ice on trees as they blew in the wind.

And the sounds indoors: nothing. Utter, unimaginable, silence.

Until the generator goes on!

But there have also been sounds of laughter. Of a fire in the grate, of games played, of a Kazoo Band, and of 30 year old cassettes wallowing on my 30 year old tape player. (“Turn it off, Mom! It’s creepy!”)

And then there was the sound of tree limbs tearing, of thunder smashing right overhead, of a little girl learning to tie her shoes, running to tell Daddy when he walked in the door and his exclamations of pride.

Yes, I will look back on this with tears and smiles someday.

Someday.

PS – I will have photos for you – probably more than you could ever hope for – as soon as I can. I’m sure I’ll write more about it, too. There is so much to process – to think through and put into words – I know I’m not yet finished.

That’s What Friends Are For

26 Feb

I mentioned last week that I’m writing several articles for my local newspaper. It’s going well so far and I’m having fun! I am certain that I’ll have all sorts of epiphanies to share with you about the whole process when I’m done.

In light of my creative juices being entirely taken up by journalism right now, I have asked my blogging friend Audrey if she was willing for me to re-blog one of her lovely posts and she was! I have mentioned Audrey and her blog, “Minnesota Prairie Roots” before, though it’s been awhile. Audrey is one of those amazing people who is able to blog daily. I can barely make my once-a-week deadline!

Audrey (r) and me, in her lovely backyard last summer.

Audrey (r) and me, in her lovely backyard last summer.


Audrey writes about life in Minnesota. Every post includes relevant and often very lovely photographs. She writes about daily life, about heart-warming people, about thought-provoking issues. She writes about quirky restaurants or stores she comes across, local places of interest, Minnesota authors, Minnesota news, Minnesota life. But don’t count her out just because she’s not writing about YOUR state or country, because everything Audrey writes is, at heart, about humanity. About things people will find interesting, humorous, and important.

I met Audrey “virtually” a year ago last fall, and since then she has become a lovely and knowledgable companion in my writing journey. She and her husband even welcomed me and my family into their own home last June and served us a delicious meal. Boo, our six year old, calls Audrey, “the lady with the great backyard.”

I call her my friend.

I picked a post of Audrey’s from last November. It’s about a museum in northern Minnesota…but, mostly, it’s about one man and his amazing dream…

So…please click on my next post and find her fantastic story!

Thanks!

Gretchen

King Turkey Day Extraordinaire!

18 Sep

When I moved to Worthington 15 years ago, there were several things that I had to adjust to. No, I’m not talking about the prairie or the weather or the figures of speech. Not this time.

This time I’m talking about things like King Turkey Day.

That’s right. King Turkey Day.

LOVE this.

Love, love, love this.

I should probably explain what King Turkey Day is…though, to be sure, it’s all a little hazy to me. As I understand it, Worthington, Minnesota clains to be the turkey capitol of the world. So does Cuero, Texas. And so they decided to duke it out with a turkey race. We race here…then, next month, we race there in Texas. It’s all very exciting. Overall, Worthington has won twenty-some times, I think, and Cuero like 18 times. So, yes, it’s been going on for that many years, though Worthington has celebrated King Turkey Day for seventysome years. They used to run an entire flock of turkeys down main street. Can you even imagine?! That would have been a sight to see.

These days there are just two turkeys…and a ton of floats. I have always enjoyed a good parade. There’s something patriotic about parades – no matter what country you’re from, the nation’s colors show up, national anthems are sung, politicians may even be present. The Turkey Day parade is no exception. Now, I admit, I do not fully participate in the King Turkey Days activities – and yes, I probably should. I have not tossed frozen turkeys, had a beer in the hallowed tent, or shaken the hands of the “other” guys from Cuero, Texas. Those things may be in my future, who can say. But I have, often, attended the parade. All two+ hours of it. And let me say, for someone who isn’t from here – and who, therefore, isn’t seeing hundreds of old acquaintances, returned home for the festivities – not to mention the fact that I don’t exactly love crowds – I feel like just being there is an accomplishment.

How great is this?!

Gotta love a little princess. Especially when riding on a Wood Duck.

This year, for the first time, I had the fun to actually being IN the parade. I had thought that I would be hidden away in the vehicle that pulled the Girl Scout float. I was wrong. I got to walk the parade, even though I never was a girl scout and I wasn’t even wearing the correct colors. I got to pass out boxes of cookies (“No, you can’t have one. You’re a teenaged boy, not a little girl!”) and I got to see the smiles on the faces of the wee girls as I handed them a whole box of cookies!! This was way more fun that I imagined it would be.

Waiting for the parade to begin…the wind, while a blessing for keeping us cool, was a bit crazy at times!

Two of our town’s lovely Girl Scouts!

Ok, so occasionally I gave out cookies to non-little girls. Ryan, the editor of our Daily Globe, was a fellow-thespian two summers ago and he just needed some cookies. And he has a daughter…so that’s my justification.

Let me back-up a little. Many of you know – but many of you do not – what being in the parade entails. It means you arrive at 12:45 or so for a parade that begins at 2:00. It means that, even though the parade begins at 2:00, you still have to stand around waiting your turn until almost 4:00 if you’re float number is 107, as ours was. It means that you drink bottles and bottles of water and that you kick yourself for not putting on sunscreen – and praise yourself for forcing it on your kids.

I love listening to these guys!

My husband enjoys these vehicles…I can’t even remember what they’re called, but they are kind of a hoot when they race around in circles…

Hanging out in the waiting line also means that you get to see all of the other floats pass your way. This is very fun and establishes camaraderie the likes of which I hadn’t seen since summer camp. It also makes for a lot of tired girl scouts. It also means that I had to miss my son in the middle school marching band because, like I said, I was stuck way back at #107 and he was #15. Bother. I heard the dulcet tones of Star Wars drifting to me on the wind once, at least, and that was fun.

Okay, so right up front I’ll tell you that this is a photo from last year’s parade, since, like I said, I couldn’t see the band this year. But it’s a fun shot. Even though we probably weren’t supposed to holler at him to look at us…

It also means that I missed seeing the turkeys race. Missed seeing Worthington’s turkey get beaten by Cuero, Texas’s turkey as they raced down mainstreet. Yes, I said raced. The turkeys race. If you’ve never seen turkeys race each other, relax, because I haven’t actually, either. The crowds are always so huge that I have never gotten a glimpse.

Here’s a parade entrant that I can’t help but be thankful for…though, to be sure, I hope to never know them better.

I also missed hearing the speaker. Missed my children gathering huge amounts of candy. (That was okay by me.) I was bummed to miss seeing the Worthington High School marching band, so am especially glad I saw them this summer. I also missed seeing local friends. I thought, erroneously, that I would see them all, that I would have the perfect vantage point. This is the dream of a novice. The view from the road, as I walked in the parade – passing the crowds on every side – is very different from the crowd’s view.

One girl scout watched me taking this picture and she said, “Did you get a picture of that pretty girl in the beautiful dress?” Yes, yes I did.

When you are in the crowd, you see everyone in the parade or on the sidewalks and you say “hi” a million times. Walking the parade means that your vision is tunneled…yet also focused. I saw lots of little potential Girl Scouts…but only about two friends, and that was because one of them had a little girl and one of them had my son and he had to yell at me about five times before I heard him.

They may not have been looking at me…but, even better, they were looking at each other…

I have to admit that I agreed to be on the float because I didn’t have much choice. It was either that or I would be a schmuck. So I said yes, and resigned myself to it. But here’s the beauty of the thing: I really, really enjoyed myself. No, I don’t totally “get” King Turkey Day….but, for the first time, I really, really liked it.

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

7 Aug

To my fellow-bloggers: I hope this post explains my absence from your comments lately.   I’m looking forward to school starting in two weeks and more time for real life.

To all my faithful readers: I hope this inspires you to jump into your local community theater…because it’s worth it.

I have been asked several times over the past two and a half months, whether being in a production like The Music Man is worth my time and energy. Is it worth essentially giving up a summer? Is it worth the lost sleep, energy, and time?

The answer, without a doubt, is “yes”.

Yes, it’s like having an unpaid job. Yes, it drains you. Yes, it requires more brain power than I sometimes have at my disposal.

But it’s worth it.

It’s worth it because I get to see my husband shine on stage. I get to listen to people’s comments in the receiving line after the show and I can’t help but grin. I get to see him, hear him, watch him be Harold Hill. And, in real life, I’m his Marian.

Sadly, “Mrs. Squires” doesn’t get to kiss “Harold Hill” in the musical…so I took advantage of a moment in the wings.

It’s worth it because I get to see our three kids blossom. I get to hear compliments from our director, and see them grow and mature. What more can a mom ask for?

Yes, it’s worth it.

I know that time is a precious commodity. One of the most valuable around. It’s easy to quantify time: you simply add up the minutes and find a total. Even I, a mathematical dunce, can do that math. It is far less easy, of course, to quantify quality time, to determine, without question, whether the time you spent was worthwhile…or wasted, was well-spent…or lost moments of your life you’ll never get back again.

I am compelled to tell you today that the time I spent this summer rehearsing, thinking about, and performing in The Music Man has been, unequivocally, time that I not only will get back again – in memories and smiles and nostalgia – but also time that I am delighted to have spent.

Yes, I have had my doubts. When I’m crabby and grumpy and the production seems to be controlling my life. When the “trouble with a capital ‘T’” seems all too apropos. But then we’ll be driving into town with the family and someone says something and suddenly we’re singing “Wells Fargo Wagon” at the top of our lungs and we can’t stop laughing. And then along comes dress rehearsal week and we see everything come together and suddenly we’re in this living, thriving thing that we helped create…and it’s vibrant and funny and thrilling!

Yes, it is exhausting. I am sleeping too long in the morning, and going to bed too late at night. I have bags under my eyes and my hair is all weird from the vast amounts of hairspray I’m using. My kids are tired, too, and I don’t know how on earth they’re going to be back on the right schedules by the time school begins in two weeks.

BUT IT’S WORTH IT.

The whole family!

It’s worth it because my whole family is together, every night, having fun at the auditorium. It’s worth it because we’re working on a project, perfecting it, experiencing it, making it happen together. We’re making friends, deepening relationships, learning, expanding our horizons, getting out of our “box” together.

Our kids are getting to know other kids, but they’re also getting to know teenagers and adults who are kind to them, helpful to them, encouraging to them. They’re getting to see their dad goof around, work hard, and excel. They’re getting to see cast-mates mess up and learning that it’s okay to not be perfect. They’re learning to look out for each other but not to be bossy.

They’re learning to work together – sometimes with people vastly different from themselves – and to do so with dignity and respect.

They’re learning, I hope, to love a little more, listen a little closer, be patient a little longer.

Yes. It’s worth it. A million times over.

So, if you’re anywhere in the vicinity of Southwest Minnesota, please, come to see The Music Man at the Memorial Auditorium this coming Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Support family-friendly events like this in our community by attending. And THANK YOU so much to those businesses and individuals who have supported the production with your generous donations.

And please, think about participating in such an event in the future with your family.

Because, in spite of everything, it’s worth it.

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