Thursday, April 30, 2009

An Influential Woman

Bree recently posted a book review of Andy Andrews "The Noticer." Andrews has done a couple of PBS specials and is an engaging speaker. According to Bree, the book is pretty good, too.

The premise of the book asks people everywhere to "notice" the five most influential people in their private or as public as participants choose." Bree asked readers to join her in noticing those who have made a difference in her life. Here is the first of several people I'll highlight over the coming months who have been influential in my life.

When I was 16, a junior in high school, we had a new drama teacher come to our high school. She was tall, very thin, wore her hair pulled up on her head and glasses. Her name was Mrs. Stone and she was a reasonably new teacher, only a few years out of college.

That fall she held auditions for the class play, "Diary of Anne Frank." I was fortunate enough to be cast as Mrs. Van Daan, the frowsy, brassy mother of Anne's love, Peter. The experience was a powerful one for all of us in the cast, with strong friendships formed.
Mrs. Stone didn't come to Sexton High alone. She brought with her an adjunct crew -- Mr. Stone, her rock...
...and Mr. and Mrs. Kolloff (aka Penny and Fred).
Mr. Stone designed the lights and technical elements of the shows, Fred did the sets, Penny the make-up and we all worked as much on the complicated sets as we did on our parts.

For the next two years, this team was part of my extended family. Somehow -- and I don't know how they did it -- the foursome maintained the adult roles (we never once thought of them as peers and treated them with that respect) while being grand fun.

But they treated us with respect, too. They weren't just "teachers" of theatre. They taught us -- through example -- about life. They showed us how loving, young adults had a relationship. They weren't our parents; they were only a few years older than we were. But we saw (without the obvious -- and in that situation, inappropriate -- public display of affection) how they treated each other. Respectfully, kindly, with humor, never with derision or put downs.

For many of us, it was our first experience at seeing a healthy man-woman relationship with someone not all that much older than we were; certainly not like our old parents!

Somehow, in our inner city high school, Mrs. Stone never lost control of her classroom or her drama productions. And they were good. They were darned good.

And I was fortunate to see them off-school, too -- as babysitter for their only son, Bobby.

Over the two years I was at Sexton, I had lead roles in several programs and worked crew on others. We all spent a lot of time together.

Well, Mrs. Stone went to MSU's theatre department, and so did I. And after I graduated from high school, our roles shifted from student to friend. They became Lin and Larry, wonderful friends of my family. Lin was the big sister I never had. The year I graduated, they moved to Ohio and after getting a masters in English, Lin decided to take another role -- physician.

She attended Ohio State, became a well-known family physician in Columbus and served on the faculty of the Ohio State Medical School -- most recently as Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine/Predoctoral Director. She is a tireless speaker, teacher, advocate and proponent of training medical students to also be human beings in their patient relationships. She has received numerous awards; they are all deserved.

And despite a grueling schedule that would destroy most people, she has maintained relationships in a way I can only envy -- always there to answer a question (we asked more than a few before Greg's cancer surgery, and I've had a few of my own), never forgetting a birthday, and always generously eager for a visitor to Michigan (especially one who likes to go shopping at Morgan House, a wonderful gift shop with a lovely restaurant attached!)

Her favorite role may be as grandma to Bob and Jennifer's two children.

Lin's passion for Christmas makes mine look rinky dink! And in Larry, she's found a grand cohort, who doesn't hesitate to hoist the 14-foot Christmas tree and help with the many others around the house!
She and Larry remain passionately in love, with a caring, gentleness, mutual respect, and affection we can all only envy. "Bobby" became Bob, a respected doctor himself, and now an equally wonderful husband and father.

In instilling and encouraging my passion in theatre; in showing me how healthy adult relationships should be; in always having time for friends; for being upbeat and positive even when life brings bad news, and for knowing how to really do the holidays, Linda Stone inspires me more than I can say.

Influential? You bet!

Linda Stone is retiring in June. Time for the two little munchkins...

And more time to spend with Larry. It's Ohio State's loss. But oh, what a legacy!

Who is influential in your life? Don't forget to visit Bree to check out what sounds like a fabulous book!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Wonderful people. Wonderful time. Wonderful town! Whether baseball, basketball or fun is your passion, Cleveland has it all!

Anno had it right -- this past weekend, Rick and I went to Cleveland to visit my cousins and see my cousin David, his wife Bonnie (aka Mama K) and my other cousin-in-law's sister (we're very inbred!) in "Fiddler on the Roof!" In the photo below, David is in the middle, Sharon is at the left and Bonnie at his right.

(By the way, these photos of the show are by Dave Anthony.)

I'll let Bonnie get first crack at writing about it on her blog. I will say, however, that it was wonderful. We saw opening night and were absolutely delighted. They did a fabulous job, the music was perfect, everything worked. It was extra fun for us, because David's part was even bigger than we thought!

We expected it would be fun, but it was also awfully good!

We started out the evening at a fun restaurant, where Cousin Patty's husband Dave, Cousin Mutty and her husband Howard, Howard's brother Kenny and Rick and I enjoyed a good dinner. (That's Dave, the photographer, next to Mutty and Kenny next to Rick!)

Then it was off to the play! Can't beat that for a fun night out.

The next morning, David and Bonnie and I went to Shaker Market, where I picked up the prize for my "Where Am I" drawing at this booth. (See the end of the post for the winner!)

Flowers were in bloom...

Colorful crafts were everywhere...

There were baked goods, meats, grains, you name it!

Let's say, I did my share for the stimulating the Cleveland farmer-and-artisan market. I loved walking by the apartment buildings a few blocks away with their amazing architecture and stonework.

Then we hit the Beachwood community sale where I found this ...

And something for the drawing!

That night, cousin Mutty, Rick and I walked through Chagrin Falls, enjoyed a good dinner, ice cream in the 80 degree evening and took photos of one another!

Some nice guy kindly took one of all three of us!

On Sunday, after a lovely breakfast at Mutty's, we headed to see Cousin Patty (whose art is lovely!) and her husband Dave.

Patty works at a floral shop where she sells her paintings, so for the first time I got to see the shop and more of her work. I'm going to write more about Patty in another post. This is just a sneak peek.

The off to home where the Gypsy was waiting!

There was really only one kind of really bad thing that happened, and that's when I backed my car into cousin Jeff's. Let's just say, thank goodness for insurance. I can't bear to post the pix.

And now -- the winner of the drawing is: Diana (aka Oh!)

And your surprise is this bar of Lemon Verbena soap (with bees wax) and a cute little pottery dish for it to sit on. Make sure I have your address! (The soap came from the farmer's market, while the dish was from the Beachwood Community Sale!)

As they always say, "A good time was had by all!" (Except that it wasn't long enough!)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Where Am I?

I'm off for the weekend!
Rick and I are on the road -- can you guess where we are by these photos?
There's no prize for guessing the right place, but there is a prize for any comments made on this post by Monday, April 27! I'll pick up a little something on my visit!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Mother – The Elvis Factor

My mother died 31 years ago today. It seems like a lifetime ago.

It seems like yesterday.

I won’t write in length about her, because I have before, mainly here, and many of you have read about her and made very kind comments that have meant the world to me.

But I think about her almost every day. And, to paraphrase a line from the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” which I watched back-to-back on telly recently, “Sometimes I miss her so much I could almost die.”

I don’t dream often about my mother – or my dad or Stimpy, for that matter. I wish I did more often.

But last week for whatever reason, she chose to enter that dream world.

I don’t remember the entire scenario – I believe looking for something, some sort of searching was involved. I returned to what I suppose was an apartment and decided to go back down the elevator. When the door opened to get on, my mother got off.

I burst into tears and we hugged each other.

And when I woke up, right after that, tears were streaming down my real-world face as well.

I’ve thought about that dream a lot, because what was interesting to me – in retrospect – was that she “looked just like herself.”

“Who else?” you might ask.

Well, my mother had lots of looks. There were the ones I never knew in person – the little girl…

The teenager at the lake.

The high school senior.

The newlywed, on her honeymoon.

The young mom, all pretty and stylish.

There was the mom of my childhood – young as well, but 30ish. (Yes, I was the kid who went to Show and Tell and told the class my mother turned 40. I was so proud and I couldn’t understand why she cried. I wonder if she’d known how soon she would leave us, if she would have cried about such a silly thing as a birthday.)

The mom of my teen years – we really got on, and I felt so lucky, because some of the kids I knew didn’t get on with their moms.

The Christmas mom.

The mom who laughed all the time and loved me, my dad and her sisters and their families with a powerful energy and warmth.

The mom who went to England with me, who did brass rubbings, who fell asleep in the theatre which she dearly loved. We ran ragged during that trip – neither of us realized then that the ovarian cancer that would overtake her three years later had already started to take its course.

My mom, who never got a present she didn't adore!

The brave mom, who handled the seizures that came when her cancer metastasized into her brain with relative good humor. Who welcomed guests to her hospital room with such joy and grace and that you would have thought you were coming to the house for tea.

The one who seldom complained as the disease ate away at her body. But that same disease couldn't destroy her soul.

When I think of cancer, I think of this – the seizures, the pain. It frightens me in ways I can’t always explain. And I wish I'd been old enough to ask, "Are you afraid?" "Tell me things..."

The mom who stepped off the elevator in the dream looked much like this mom – the brave one, with her prednisone face, her frosted-blondish wig, her smile. All five feet of her. The one whose photo I snapped with my dad, two or three weeks before she died, doing her best to look good for us.

My mother was frozen in time, and it’s the way I think of her most. It’s not unlike how we think of Princess Diana or JFK or Elvis. One pose of image that is almost iconic.

For me, the Elvis image is the white suit with the spangles; the Diana image (images is probably a better term) is in a smashing gown (generally that black cocktail dress she was photographed in the night of Prince Charles’ television interview, or a wonderful purple gown). For JFK, my image the man playing with his children in the Oval Office or with the wind blowing back his hair on a yacht at Hyannis Port.

Frozen in time. Never to get older, to have the lines and wrinkles, the cottage-cheese thighs or the extra chins that seem to come our way every day, no matter how well we try to disguise them.

This year I will turn the age my mother was when she died. It’s a weird feeling. She was 58; I just want to get through that year. I want to do the things I haven’t done; experience everything. And with joy.

Because I know life can be cut so very short.

I miss you, mom. But you taught me well.

Do you have an "iconic image" in your heart of someone you loved?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Some Pretties

Last Saturday (the day before Easter), my friend Jan and I went to my favorite sort-of farm market, Horrock's for a pre-Easter shopping extravaganza.

Horrock's isn't a pure farm market in the everything-is-local sense (although I do see the trucks come in from regional growers). But you'll also find the fruits and veggies from out of town (sometimes out of country), products they make there (fabulous salsa), basil with the roots still on, typical grocery products (including many interesting imported or ethnic foods), wonderful, inexpensive meat and a good wine selection.

They also have a huge outdoor nursery we will revisit in another three weeks or so and lovely gifts.

I can't walk in without buying fresh cut flowers or plants.

And while I generally do resist the gifty-things, I really am challenged! I could have easily walked out of there with any of the lovelies here!

Going to Horrock's is like celebrating spring!

On another note, when I recently linked to Jane Rosemont's photo blog, she was in Bali and not posting. Well, she's back -- and if you are interested in some splendid photos and portraits from this country, visit her PhotoBlog anytime!

Jane will be teaching a photo workshop in Bali in 2010, with an enrollment of six. In an email to those requesting info she wrote: "Ithink limiting the workshop to six people is wise; it will give me a
chance to work one-on-one with you, and give everyone a chance to share their photos, thoughts and questions."

Stop by for links on the workshop and to check out her photos! (Don't forget to scroll down a few posts to catch them all!)

Finally, I have just posted my thoughts on two terrific Kate Atkinson mysteries. Check them out on Chopsticks and String.

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