Curried Butternut Squash Soup

This is a very simple soup which is incredibly easy to make and can be made from locally grown ingredients. It is a wonderful flavor for the Fall/Autumn and a great comfort food as the air starts to get nippier. Serve with some bread from the Farmer’s Market. For those of you in Farmville try the Cheese bread from Sue Smorto/Sooz Kitchen.

I tend to make soup haphazardly so these are not precise ingredients but will give you the general idea.

Ingredients:

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The butternut squash and onion were bought at the Farmville Farmer’s Market.

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Peel and chop the onions and fry them in some olive oil until translucent. The heat should be high and you’ll need to stir them regularly to prevent from browning.

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Peel and chop the garlic. I used a whole bulb of garlic which had 6 cloves. You want plenty of garlic. Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic to the pan.

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Peel and roughly chop the butternut squash into chunks about 1 inch square.

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Add the butternut squash to the pan and stir well. Leave on the heat and stir occasionally until the garlic and squash are starting to cook. Salt and Pepper to your taste and add 2 tablespoons of curry powder. I like a lot of curry flavor but you can adjust this amount to better suit your taste. I recommend being generous with the pepper as you want it to give the soup a wee bit of a bite. Mix well and cook for about another 10 minutes.

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At this point fill the pot with enough water to almost cover the vegetables and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat and put a lid on the pot so that the soup is left simmering for a while. Check at regular intervals to make sure there is plenty of liquid and the soup is staying at a simmer and not boiling.

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Let it simmer away gently for a couple of hours until the squash is well cooked. Once everything is well cooked it will look like the picture above.

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Add 1 cup of milk/single cream/half and half/heavy cream depending on how creamy and calorie laden you are willing to go. I use half and half/single cream.

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At this point it really depends how thick you like your soup. Blend everything together and see how thick the soup is, then water it down to the thickness you desire.

Cooking

A year of saying the right yeses and nos

Buachaille Etive Mor - Jon-Marc's first Munro

Buachaille Etive Mor by Jon-Marc - his first Munro

When I spoke at the memorial service for my brother in November last year I stated my intention to keep climbing mountains in my own way for him. (Eulogy for Jon-Marc.) I had to take some time and identify my mountains and how I needed to climb them but around this time last year it became clear to me how I could challenge myself and I decided to take on that challenge in 2012.

I come from a typical huge Catholic family. There are aunts and uncles and cousins upon cousins. From such a large sample base there are very few major illnesses and nothing like Jon-Marc’s case of a relatively young man so ill with colorectal cancer. This healthy family background had instilled a level of bravado in me about my good genes and the likelihood of a long, healthy life. Jon-Marc’s illness brought that idea crashing down. I began to realize that I had to grab life now and not put off things I hoped to do one day. This realization came just before Jon-Marc died and, without thinking of it in that way, I climbed my first mountain.

I have always loved musical theatre and I love to sing. The problem is, although I very much enjoy being around other people, I am introverted and do not like to have attention focused on me. The idea of singing in front of other people on a stage terrified me but I realized it was something I had always hoped I would overcome and do one day. Waterworks Players decided to do “Chicago” which is a musical I love and I realized the time had come to face that fear. The worst part was actually the audition. I went to the first night of auditions to watch the process and try to talk myself into doing it the next night. I was still terrified but lucked out that only a few people came the second night and most of the faces looking up at me when I got on stage to audition were friendly faces who I knew only wanted me to succeed. I was incredibly nervous but made it through the audition and was not only cast but given a solo (I was cast as Mary Sunshine.) Now I was terrified of that performance in front of an audience of strangers. I knew there was a chance of failing miserably and having to face that embarrassment but if I didn’t fail the rewards would be so great. And they were great.

In considering how I was going to climb my mountains after giving the eulogy I thought about the experience with Chicago and recognized those were my mountains. When an opportunity comes along and my first reaction is to say no because my brain presents me with all the possible scenarios for how it could go wrong but searching in my heart I realize if it goes right it could be so rewarding or it’s the right thing to do. These are the right yesses. Over the course of the year I realized that I do say yes a lot but many times it is to things I don’t really want to do but feel obliged. This is when I added the idea of also saying no but the right nos.

I haven’t reflected much on the nos because it was easy to see what they did. They allowed me more time to do the things I really wanted to do and also cut out a lot of stress from my life. I felt the stress level lift as soon as I said no or more commonly cut out a stress factor from my life. I wasn’t entirely successful at saying no every time I should have but it was a big improvement.

The yeses are much more worthy of reflection because I can look back on this year and see the wild ride it has been … at least for an introvert. I’ve sang a lot more this past year than ever before because I’ve pushed myself to do it when normally I would avoid at all costs, even in smaller less public situations. I have no training except for all the hymn rehearsals at Catholic school … and those were pretty rigorous … but that was a long time ago. I don’t think the sound I make is too painful to other ears and singing is good for the soul … it has been one of my joys this year. I may yet live to regret this attitude. I was asked to take part in a lipdub at work but we were not dubbing we were singing live. I had to sing along in my office and this really pushed me again with a camera pointing in my face. The finished result will be shown at a Longwood event this coming year so I may have to cringe through it all. I had an ipod playing the song in my ear while singing so I was finding it hard and I’m pretty sure I was off-key.

The other two major yeses have been very rewarding if not always producing the desired results. I directed the pantomime at Waterworks this year. I wrote last year about our pantomimes – Pantomimes: A Uniquely British Tradition No Longer. I’ve enjoyed being on stage and doing other smaller behind the scenes roles at Waterworks but directing a show myself where all the responsibility ends with me was a huge undertaking. Just the idea alone of telling a cast and crew what to do and being “in command” is a huge hurdle, most definitely out of the comfort zone for an introvert. I am so glad I took this on because it was an incredibly rewarding experience. I had a wonderful cast and crew who made the show, and getting to know these people better and work with them was a brilliant bonus. It was a delight to watch the audience at each performance as they reacted the way we had hoped to the things that were happening on stage. I will treasure the memory of doing this show forever.

The second major yes also came towards the end of the year. I said yes earlier in the year to being a co-chair of the Staff Advisory Committee at Longwood University. A concern was brought to the committee later in the year regarding the current presidential search. Staff were concerned about the process and also about the fact our current interim president has been disqualified from the process because she does not possess the qualifications being required. It was decided to take action by drafting a letter to the Board of Visitors and collecting signatures from staff in support of the letter. I had then to read this to the Board of Visitors and hand over the letter and the signatures to the Board. This initiative pushed me in so many ways as I met and talked to people all over campus. It also allowed a chance to work more closely with other members of the Staff Advisory Committee and that was a wonderful bonus to the process. While we did not succeed in changing the current course of the presidential search we did cause the situation to be discussed across campus resulting in more people being informed about what was happening. The staff had a voice and made their feelings felt and we collected signatures from around one quarter of the current staff. Reading the letter to the Board of Visitors was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life and definitely one of the highest mountains scaled in the course of this year.

Recently I’ve seen a lot of people posting various forms of a quote that basically says we/I regret the things we/I did not do not the things we/I did. I’ve seen it attributed to several different sources so I’m not sure who did say it although it is possible several famous personalities have stated something along those lines. I feel that sentiment fits well how I have tried to live this year. I gave myself this year as a test run to see how well I could do and what would happen but I intend this to be a life change. Now I look forward to seeing what this attitude brings in 2013!

Jon-Marc in Chamonix, Sept 2010

Jon-Marc in Chamonix, Sept 2010

Life is Beautiful

Leek and Potato Soup

One of the bags from my crop share at the end of August sat in my office all afternoon smelling of soup. This was probably due to the leeks and basil. There were also potatoes in the bag so there was only one answer to what to make for dinner that night. Leek and potato soup made with mostly local ingredients and served with bread from The Bakery was a winner.

I tend to make soup haphazardly so I don’t have precise ingredients but this will give you the general idea.

Ingredients:

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The onions were locally grown from the crop share.

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Chop the onions.

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Cook the onions in some heated olive oil until well cooked and almost going brown.

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The potatoes were also from the crop share.

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The potatoes are peeled and diced then thrown in on top of the onions. I also thrown in about a handful of chopped ham unless I want to make the soup vegetarian friendly. Let this cook for about 10 mins.

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Two beautiful leeks from the crop share. One of my favorite vegetables!

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The vegetables are chopped up as shown and added to the pan.

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I had a beautiful bunch of fresh basil in the crop share so this was chopped up and added to the pan. When there is no fresh basil I’ll sometimes use dried or skip this step.

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Salt and pepper it to your taste although I recommend going somewhat heavy with the pepper as the peppery taste works well in leek and potato soup. Stir everything regularly and let it cook for a wee bit until the potatoes start to cook.

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At this point fill the pot with enough water to cover all of the vegetables and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat and put a lid on the pot so that the soup is left simmering for a while until the potatoes are cooked through. Check at regular intervals to make sure there is plenty of liquid and the soup is staying at a simmer and not boiling.

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Once everything is well cooked it will look like the picture above. At this point it really depends how thick you like your soup. Blend everything together and then add 2 cups of milk/single cream/half and half/heavy cream depending on how creamy and calorie laden you are willing to go. At this point check and see how thick the soup is and then water it down to your taste.

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By the end it should look something like this and a nice finishing touch is to add a dollop of sour cream/mascarpone/creme fraiche to each bowl.

Adventures in CSA Land, Cooking, Like Water for Chocolate, Recipes

Chard Pesto

Fresh chard

As mentioned in the previous post I made pesto from the chard. The recipe for the pesto was as follows:

2 bunches chard
tblspn pine nuts
.5 cup parm
1 clove garlic
cup of olive oil

2 bunches chard
1 tblspn pine nuts
.5 cup parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
cup of olive oil

Pesto is so easy to make. Just add the dry ingredients to your blender or food processor. Start the blender and let it chop the dry ingredients for a minute or two and then slowly add the olive oil. By the end you will have a paste. This will keep in your refrigerator for about 4 days or you can freeze it. A great idea is to freeze the pesto in an ice cube tray then put the cubes in a freezer bag. That way you can use as many or as few as you need for each dish.

Pesto

I used this batch up without needing to freeze. One night I fried some onions in olive oil then added leftover ham cold cuts that had been chopped into strips and some sliced mushrooms. Once these were cooked through I added the pesto and heated it all together for a few minutes. Meanwhile I had boiled some spaghetti which was added to the rest of the ingredients and stirred up until the pesto sauce coated the pasta. This is then served with some grated parmesan sprinkled over the top. The rest of the pesto was used up to make light snacks during next few days by slathering it on some  of the incredible bread from The Bakery here in Farmville.

Adventures in CSA Land, Cooking, Like Water for Chocolate, Recipes

Beets and Chard

I received my CSA share on Wednesday of this week but the first chance I had to do some cooking was Friday evening. I already had planned on having fish so decided to make some kind of side dish with the beets. The chard was starting to get “wilty” so I felt like I also needed to do something with it the same night.

When faced with an ingredient which is new to me or when I feel like trying to use something in a different way I start by surveying some of my favorite recipe sites. I have used allrecipes.com for years. It has some great features such as being able to search on the ingredients you want to use, a tool to develop a shopping list of what you need for recipes, and a recipe box to save your favorites. I also like epicurious and Pinterest has become a great resource for finding new recipes, saving them for future use, and then commenting to record how they turned out.

I do have a bad habit of rarely following a recipe as published. Often there is a good reason for this, such as missing an ingredient or two, but most of the time it’s because I know the flavors I like. I use the recipes found for initial inspiration. I saw a lot of recipes for roasting the beets. That is my favorite way to cook vegetables, especially roots. I needed to find something to do with the chard that could be used later and I saw that many people were making pesto with it. So the plan was to roast the beets and pesto the chard! I’ll add a link to the pesto recipe once I use the pesto in a complete dish.

One additional noteworthy fact about my cooking. We have a very limited kitchen so I have to do everything with two standalone burners, a countertop oven, and a microwave. It’s been that way for 10 years now and I’ve made it work pretty well.

Roasted Veggies

Ingredients:

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Start the oven preheating to 400 deg F. Scrubbed the veggies and peeled the beets and garlic.

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Cut the beets into approximately 1 inch chunks and put them in a pyrex dish.

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Cut the potatoes in half, chopped the garlic and then added the salt and pepper and the olive oil.

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I love these Pyrex dishes that come with a lid. It makes it so easy to coat veggies before roasting. I just put the lid on and shake vigorously until everything is coated. Just remember to take the lid off before putting the dish in the oven!

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About 40 minutes to an hour later your vegetables will come out looking like this! You can tell they are ready when you can insert a fork easily.

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We ate them with potato encrusted cod and it was delicious. My husband wasn’t as keen. He didn’t dislike the beet flavor but felt it needed to not be as featured in the recipe. He wanted its flavor to take more of a backseat. We’re going to have to agree to differ on that point.

Here’s your dose of TMI … don’t freak out the next day when you see purple poop :lol:

Adventures in CSA Land, Cooking, Like Water for Chocolate, Recipes

Adventures in CSA Land

CSA Haul

This summer I’m getting a half share of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.) The idea is you commit to buy the produce so the farmer can go into the season knowing he has buyers and how much they will be paying. I’m actually doing it with barter this year. The CSA is with Frog Bottom Farm who need a new WordPress template coded for their website.

This means I will be getting a lot of produce with which I have never worked before. I thought I would record what I end up doing with the produce each week so I can go back to it in future years and remember what was a success and what failed. Today I received the first half share which is pictured above.

It included:

2 bunches of Chard
4 beets
2.5 lb of courgettes and squash
garlic

Garlic I have been using in mass quantities for years! Zucchini/courgettes I have used since my university days. Squash was new to me when I moved to Virginia but I’ve learned to use it in a few different ways. The challenges will come using the chard and beets. I’ve never cooked with those before. Recipes and comments will be posted later in the week.

Adventures in CSA Land

Sometimes Government Really Does Work! Even for a Dang Furrigner!

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I’ve been meaning to write this experience down for while now. As I’ve blogged about several times I lost my brother in November, 2011. When Jon-Marc was diagnosed with cancer I started planning a trip to Scotland with Sean to spend Christmas with Jon-Marc and the rest of the family. At the time both of our passports needed renewed.

I’m a British citizen so I needed to renew my British passport. The photographs for British passports require different dimensions than American and that proved to be a complication. I won’t go into details but several attempts to get photographs didn’t work out for various reasons. Sean was getting his photograph taken at the same time for an American passport but with the difficulties encountered we never did get a photograph for either of us. Despite the warnings about printing the photo yourself it was decided that was the only route for me with the time left. Lon took my photograph and then worked with photo editing software to get it the right size and printed at as high a quality as possible. At this point time was running seriously short. The process for the American passport was a lot simpler so we were not too concerned about Sean’s passport yet.

On November 3rd I received the call I had been dreading. I was told I needed to get over to Scotland as soon as possible because Jon-Marc was in really bad shape. The soonest I could leave was a week and half so the flights were booked and then attention turned to the passports. My passport application had been submitted so I called the British Embassy in DC and they told me the passport would be there any day. Then we checked to see how we could expedite the process for Sean. My wonderful friend, Alecia, told me her parents had driven to DC, only 3 hours away, and been able to get her a passport the same day. I called to find out if that was still true and found it was but I had to make an appointment. The soonest I could get the appointment was 2pm the following Thursday. I booked the appointment and Lon made plans to drive up there with Sean that day. I didn’t plan to go because I had already missed so much work and needed all the vacation I had left to cover this trip and the one already booked for December. [Aside: Did you know the State of Virginia doesn't count a brother as immediate family ... yeah! I had to use my vacation for all time taken related to this situation.]

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Unfortunately Jon-Marc was not able to hold on any longer. Two days after the phone call, on a pretty Sunday morning, I was at the offices of one of the people I work for updating the virus protection on all the computers. I had my laptop beside me and my Mum came on Skype to let me know they needed to call now. Jon-Marc had passed away a few hours earlier. Amazingly I managed to hold myself together enough to finish up what I was doing then calmly drive home before the floodgates opened. Now we were flying home for the funeral instead of to see Jon-Marc.

Lon’s health was still pretty poor at this point. He couldn’t go very far without oxygen and how much he could do each day varied greatly. He was having a bad week leading up to the DC trip and hadn’t been able to get out and get the passport photos for Sean yet. The plan was to drive up to DC in plenty of time, get the photographs, and then go get the passport. To quote Rabbie Burns:

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley

The morning of the trip to DC I had a meeting and set off to make my meeting confident Lon had his alarm set and would be on the road by the time I was out of my meeting. When the meeting was over I checked online and didn’t see anything to indicate Lon had been up and active. Yes we’re that geeky there are ways and means to tell if something seems out of place in our activity within the family. I ran around to the house and found he was still asleep. I mentioned it was 3 hours to DC, right? The time was now 11am and they both had yet to wake up. The 3 hours doesn’t include time to get in the city center and then there was still the question of the photograph. I was distraught. I couldn’t imagine going without Sean. We had never been apart for more than one night, never mind a whole week and at such an emotionally difficult time.

Lon managed to pull himself together and the decision was to just keep rolling and go on up there. They got out the door and on the road and then I proceeded to have a good cry to myself before pulling things together and trying to figure out something to do that would actually be productive. I called the Passport office to find out if there was anyway they could stay open later and explained about trying to get home for the funeral but the lady on the phone basically told me I was out of luck. They were closing early that day and then the next day was a holiday so I couldn’t even make an appointment for Friday. The flight left Sunday and the funeral was the next day!

After hanging up the phone I sat and thought for a few minutes and remembered talking to Virgil Goode’s assistant at a Leadership Farmville class. At the time Virgil Goode was our congressional representative. When asked what types of things she dealt with his assistant told us that one of the common issues people brought to the office was passport problems. I got online and looked up the  office numbers for our current representative, Robert Hurt. I figured DC was as a good a place to start as any and called that office. I spoke with a lovely lady there and explained the situation. She told me she was very sorry but their office did not deal with passport issues however she gave me the name and number of a lady in their Charlottesville office and explained this type of issue was the Charlottesville lady’s speciality. I had to get back to work so I called Charlottesville as I walked to work and spoke with yet another lovely lady who worked for Mr. Hurt. I am embarrassed to say I cannot recall her name but I will be forever in her debt. She told me not worry it was possible to get this worked out. She told me the most important thing was for Lon and Sean to keep on making their way to DC even though they would not make it in time. She gave me her information, then told me to call and give it to Lon and Sean and make sure they kept on the road to DC, then I was to call her back. When the boys got to the passport office in DC, if they could not get in to the office they were to call her immediately.

After talking to Lon and Sean and assuring they were still on their way I called the lady in Robert Hurt’s office back and she got all my relevant details. She then told me to call her back if I had any concerns but reassured me she was already working on making this happen. The next few hours were pretty excruciating waiting to hear something from someone. I finally got a call somewhere between 4pm and 5pm. It was Lon and he told me he had bad news. My heart sank. After pausing he went on and told me that the passport office was closed when they got there and then paused again. I was trying to process that information when he went on to say and now the good news… jerk!

On arriving in DC they had headed to the passport office area and parked nearby. Luckily there was a passport photograph place nearby … of course! And of course they paid a ridiculous price for the photographs but it was worth it. Upon reaching the passport office it had just closed and the security guard was not letting them in. Lon called the lady in Charlottesville who told them to go to another area of the building. Upon reaching that area it turned out to be the same place where government representatives and other VIPs go to get their passports. The lady in Charlottesville had faxed over the information clearing the way for Sean to get his passport. At the time of the call they were just sitting in the office waiting while the passport was manufactured.

I can’t say enough about how nice the ladies in both of representative Hurt’s offices were when dealing with us that day. They were so sensitive to the situation and made sure that we were assured this was absolutely something that could be resolved … even though it seemed so impossible.

Family, Living in America

Community Theatre – Is it Waiting for Guffman?

jcs

Jesus Christ Superstar - First Waterworks production that really impressed

I have been in love with the theatre for as long as I can remember. The first experiences involved Christmas pantomimes every year in the UK. As a youth I was blessed to live close to the Cumbernauld Theatre which is known in the UK for excellence while still being a community effort. As well as being able to attend some great productions I participated in youth workshops and learned a lot while having a great time.

Glasgow has a rich heritage of theatre and during my student years I saw a wealth of different productions from the very avante garde to the more traditional. Some productions left me and my friends wondering what we had just seen. I remember one particular production of “Macbeth” which came complete with a rubbery, blood spurting heart but little else and left us scratching our heads. On the other hand there was the joy of seeing a lavish production of “Lady Windermere’s Fan” which introduced me to the wit of Oscar Wilde. I remember my sides being sore from laughing after watching Elaine C. Smith take on the title role in Willy Russell’s “Shirley Valentine”. When I moved to Newcastle I was privileged to see both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the 20th anniversary touring production of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

Then I moved to Farmville, Virginia.

At first I thought it wouldn’t seem so far to go to Richmond or Charlottesville but we started a business and it got hard to venture too far from home. Then my friend Stephanie got involved with the local community theatre group, the Waterworks Players. Lon and I went to a few shows and were amazed to see what they could pull off with such little resources. I started by helping develop the website and taking photographs of the shows. A few years later I was asked to join the board, which I did, but having just become a Mum I couldn’t become involved with actual show production. I continued doing as much as I could while still being amazed at what they managed to do and thankful to be able to attend the productions.

Steel Magnolias was my first time Stage Managing a show

Steel Magnolias - My first stage managing gig

As Sean got older I decided to try my hand behind the scenes with some stage managing and sound. It was so much fun being involved with the shows on this level. I never believed I would ever have the guts to actually get on stage but was happy to be involved at my current level. Then 2 years ago we put on a staged reading of a show by Longwood Professor Brett Hursey. The cast still needed another female so I decide to give it a shot. I figured this would be an easy introduction since I didn’t need to learn the lines. I didn’t realize it would be so much fun and was surprised to find I didn’t get stage fright.

Community theatre does get a bad rap being mocked by most of the rest of the theatrical community. There was a really good article about this recently, “Theatre The Theatre Community Disdains” by Howard Sherman and it was great to see this article standing up for the community theatre world. What Mr. Sherman says is very true about community theatre groups and what they have to offer, but there is so much more to be gained being involved with your local community theatre group. My theatre family here in Farmville has become even more of a blessing in the past year. Along with friends and relatives, my theatre family has been there for me especially during the course of this particularly hard past year. Being involved with the shows kept me busy but I also knew I was surrounded by people who understood those moments when it was all a bit too much.

If you have any interest or curiosity I would urge you to seek out your nearest community theatre and give it a try. If you are here in Farmville or the surrounding area come join us at the Waterworks! We are always happy to have new faces. You don’t need prior experience just a willingness to dive in and learn while working alongside a great team of people.

Update 3/15/2012
Just after I posted this blog entry my step-daughter contacted me to say she was thinking about trying out for 9 to 5 at her local theatre. I encouraged her to go for it and was thrilled to hear she did audition!

Update 3/16/2012
So proud of Michelle for being cast as Doralee in 9 to 5. I knew she could do it! Now we have to plan a road-trip to Tennessee in May :)

Life is Beautiful, Living in America

Take these broken wings and learn to fly … again

headphones

“Blackbird” by The Beatles has been running through my head a lot this week. I’ve been struggling with living up to the eulogy I gave for Jon-Marc and I’m disappointed in myself. This may be somewhat unreasonable. It has only been three months and that’s a short time to expect to have scaled any mountains. Still, I feel like I’m not even scaling any grassy knolls at the moment.

I usually tend towards being a very positive person. I’m the eternal optimist with bucket loads of hope to spare. I’m having a hard time reconnecting with that part of me since it experienced its biggest let down ever. The cancer diagnosis came nearly a year ago. I know because I was scrambling to get the VCA grant together for the Waterworks Players before the March 1st deadline when I got the dreadful news. That deadline has come around again and brought a harsh reminder of what happened last year. At the time I was sad and concerned but full of hope and sure that it wouldn’t be as bad as we thought. Over the course of last year I clung desperately to that hope remaining fully optimistic that I would get to celebrate Christmas 2011 with Jon-Marc. Right up until the week before he died my hope was strong enough to believe that was still the case. When Jon-Marc died my hope died.

Now I’m trying to learn how to hope again.

All of my family has a strong connection to music. All of the siblings in my family can tell you pieces of music that mark moments in our lives or relate to you our favorite concert experiences. Listening to music has become difficult for us. So many of those memories are tied to Jon-Marc, our shared experiences and shared loves with him.

This week a glimmer of hope returned. I was introduced to a new Scottish band by a colleague and for the first time in what feels like a long time I needed to hear more. I downloaded the album in Spotify and have been playing it over and over. I realized I hadn’t fired up Spotify in a longtime and found myself rediscovering my playlists. I even made sure I had checked through all of Jon-Marc’s playlists for any forgotten gems.

I did poke the pain a little too hard listening to Hoppipolla by Sigur Ros. It was too soon. Jon-Marc introduced me to Sigur Ros and Hoppipolla was played at the end of his memorial service. I hope to be able to listen to that track again eventually. It’s too beautiful to not be heard but not yet. More time needs to pass.

So I am trying to learn to fly again as I did before. When I am described in the future I don’t want people to say her brother died relatively young and she just never got over it. I want there to be many more achievements and moments to savor. If you want to check them out for yourself the band I was introduced to is called Kassidy and funnily enough their album is called Hope St.

Family, Music

Grief in the Time of Social Media

Grief in the Time of Social Media

It’s been three months now since Jon-Marc died. <cliché>I still can’t believe he’s gone.</cliché> I keep waiting to see him tweet, update on Facebook, or pop on to Skype for a chat. The way that social media has connected many of us more tightly than ever before has been both the most wonderful and most terrible parts of this grief.

Not long after he died I got a notification that Jon-Marc Creaney had joined a group on LinkedIn. My heart leapt! I can’t explain how it happened. It may have been the group admin had just accepted Jon-Marc’s request to join. I’ll never know but for almost a whole minute I was convinced he was right there and was never gone and then I remembered again. That’s the hard part. I bring up Skype and he is still there on my contact list but it never lights up to show me he is online and ready to chat. I’m still following him on Twitter but he doesn’t tweet any more. We are still friends on Facebook but he hasn’t updated his status since November 1st, a link to his last blog post. Every now and again someone posts something about him or tags him in a photograph and his name shows up in my timeline. Once again my heart leaps but then crashes to the ground with a painful thud.

But that’s the downside.

There’s an upside … a wonderful upside.

When I miss him I can visit with him again through his photography on Flickr, his blog posts, and the parts of his life that were recorded in posts to Twitter and Facebook. I can revisit our conversations on Skype and other instant message services used over the years. I have a whole segment of his life recorded to keep with me and revisit again and again as I need it. Right now it can be very painful and I question why I do it to myself. I hope with time it will become easier and I will be able to savor the joy it brings and feel the pain less. For all the pain it brings I feel so blessed to have these snapshots of my brother that have only come in this day and age.

It has also been an immense comfort to communicate with friends and family sharing our grief and sharing the joy it is to have known Jon-Marc. I’ve lived many miles away for 17 years now and missed getting to know the friends Jon-Marc made during that time. It surprised me but in the last few years Jon-Marc became very active online and the miles between us melted away. He was the least tech-savvy of my brothers and so was the last I thought would have become so connected. Despite that connection you don’t get to know the other people in a person’s life.

After Jon-Marc died  there was an outpouring of messages in various places online. Memories and thoughts on the influence Jon-Marc had in each of our lives were shared. Going forward there are now new connections with people who shared his life and held him dear.

I hear many complaints about people who overshare online and I understand that it can become too much. I hope I don’t overshare too much but I do like being able to go back over the last few years and relive moments and events. I have an invaluable record of my child growing up through various venues over the years: LiveJournal, a blog, Facebook, Google+, etc. These things we share online are providing a great source for friends, family, and others to know and stay connected to us. Even on past your death there is a now record you were here in a new and valuable way.

Family, Living Online