Monday, November 26, 2012

Movie Extra for "Poor Earl"

Earlier this month, I did something I have wanted to do for a long time. An older person might call this a "bucket list" item -- I was an extra in a movie. Well, "movie" is a bit of a stretch, I was an extra in a short student film called "Poor Earl." 

This story, as do most stories, has its roots in the past. 

Four years ago I took a similar leap into the unknown. I auditioned for a play with Ashley at Somerset Valley Players. We were cast as the bank examiner (Miss Carter) and the youngest daughter (Zuzu) in "It's a Wonderful Life." It truly was a wonderful time. Besides being on the stage of a community theater production (instead of in the audience), I made a number of friends and found a new home. Now it is Ashley on stage without me, while I work on writing grants and volunteering behind the scenes. 

Two years ago Brian, one of my cast mates, invited me to be a Zombie in his movie "Demon Hunters." Unfortunately the timing did not work out for me (it would have required 10-12 hour commitment 90 minutes north of us on a Saturday or Sunday of the movie director's choice). I even bought a Zombie outfit (clothes from Good Will that I don't care if they are torn or destroyed). Alas, the timing did not work out. I regretted not making it happen.

Fast forward to earlier this month. Along with the rest of the SVP email list, I was asked to be an extra in a student film that would take place at Somerset Valley Players. All I had to do was sit in the audience and pretend to like a show that was not really happening. 

I jumped at the opportunity.

The filming fit within the free school day hours. Don did work from home in the afternoon in case it took longer. I came home the same time as the school bus.

The day was fun. I saw theater friends Carolyn and Theresa. Theresa was the star, along with the actor who played Earl. Carolyn snagged a few lines as the mayor.

We redid each scene a number of times, then repeated each scene more times as it was being filmed with a single camera. 

As far as being an extra goes, this was easy work. We were inside all day sitting in comfy theater seats. The students gave us each one slice of pizza as thanks, and a promise to send us the final product. I hope he gets an A on his project.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Trenton Half Marathon

As I was running in the inaugural Trenton Half Marathon I'll admit I did not have a kind word for the race. A day later as I look at my pretty medal, my harsh words are softening.

Only 20 days ago I ran in the Columbus Half Marathon. Since then I dealt with taking down a willow tree thanks to Hurricane Sandy, and had a surprise early November snowstorm the Weather Channel decided to name Athena. One of my favorite races, the 5-mile Beauty and the Beach run in Long Beach, NJ was canceled as Sandy destroyed the shore town, and our route. On one of my few training runs, 5 miles through Mercer Meadows, I had to climb over 3 trees twice.

In a nutshell, training stank.

Saturday's race was calling for beautiful weather -- low 38, high 50. 
The drive to Waterfront Park and parking was a mess. The line for race day packet pick ups were long (thankfully, Sharon and I went on Thursday). The race started 45 minutes late. Yes, FORTY-FIVE minutes late as the announcer kept insisting it would be a few more minutes and appreciating our patience. 

My biggest complaint with the start was that I could not figure out how to line up by anticipated finish time, nor could I find a pacer. There were about 2700 runners. I have a tendency to jackrabbit at the start, and was hoping to be able to pace myself right in the start. This is what really helped me with Columbus.

The route:
Started off going under the new tunnel on 29. Then up and over the highway and back through the tunnel. Overall my GPS route showed it was .33 miles shorter than 13.1, which people attributed to losing satellite in the tunnel and under the overpasses. 

Much of the route was along not-so scenic Route 29. I would have preferred more time on State Street or through neighborhoods as 29 does not encourage places to stop and view the race. There was a definite lack of spectators along the route.
Don chased after me on his bike and took lots of pictures of me along the way.
Later on I found out Gary, someone I know through community theater, handed me water at one of the watering stops. I was surprised day of by how few people I knew. Surprised later in the day when I read in FB about how many people I did know at the race. Should have coordinated better.

As billed, one of the highlights was running across the Trenton Makes Bridge. I hadn't paid attention to the surface of the bridge before. The whole time I was afraid I would catch my toe in the steel grates. Made out fine, and didn't see anyone fall, but it was a definite obstacle that I will be prepared for next time.

The race then went into Morrisville, PA for a couple of miles. Bigger crowds in Pennsylvania -- possibly because less roads were closed and we went through residential neighborhoods.

Crossed the Calhoun Street Bridge back into New Jersey. By now most of the runners clued into running on the boardwalk on the side, rather than the closed steel grate bridge.

There was a 10K option, but I pressed on. This was one of the clearest signs along the route. One of my pet peeves with the race, was the lack of clear signage overall. I saw my first mile marker at mile 4! At a water station there was a hand written sign saying Gatorade to the left and water to the right. It was hard to read.

There is Don in his yellow jacket taking pictures at the top of the overpass.

I never realized before how hilly Cadwalader Park really is! Had the storms not hit, I had been planning on driving the course to see what to expect. Oh well, another race.

The highlight -- running on the field at Waterfront Park! 

Another highlight -- the great personal support. My parents chased me around town with Ashley, while Don chased me on his bike. My time (only 2 minutes slower than Columbus, even with taking pictures, walking, and chatting with fellow runners who were struggling through the course) was much better than I would have imagined. 

Would I do another race in Trenton? Time will tell. It was like childbirth -- the further away from it you are, the less you remember the pain.Will I sign up for another half marathon? You bet! Leaning towards signing up for the Disney Coast-to-Coast Challenge!

Friday, November 9, 2012

American Girl Doll outfits

About three years (2009) Ashley decided to dress up like the historical American Girl Dolls using items found in her closet and in her dress up area. 






Felicity / Elizabeth

Chrissa -- 2009 AGD Girl of the Year



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happy Halloween -- Jersey Style

Superstorm Sandy put a crimp in our Halloween plans. This was the second year in a row weather impacted Halloween in New Jersey. Last year it was snow.

Ashley was very excited about her costume this year. About a month ago she decided she wanted to be a witch. I asked Ashley what that meant (the past few years she has been creating her own costumes out of her dress up collection).

She pictured a black dress. So we went to Red, White and Blue in Hamilton, NJ and found a woman's black dress for $1.50. Ashley cut it up and added some "patches" to it from her sewing collection. The hat was found at Target in their bargain bin section. The scarf was half a yard of Halloween fabric on sale at Target. The hair was a wig loaned to us by a theater friend. She decided the costume really needed leg warmers and striped socks.

I took her to Little Acres for the annual pumpkin patch picture. She decided to get into the action by "flying." 

Trick or treating ... this is what makes it a Jersey-style Halloween. Due to the wide impact of Superstorm Sandy, Governor Chris Christie (R) declared trick or treating would be postponed until Monday, November 5. Other towns more severely impacted changed the date to November 16th, or a different date that better suited them.
Unfortunately this meant the Halloween party at school was cancelled, though they did hold Trunk or Treat. 

For the first time in years, we trick or treated on our side of the neighborhood. It was a real treat for me to see the kids on our side of the neighborhood and knock on our neighbors doors. We went with Ayla, her friend, Lina, and Ayla's brother Noam. Her sister, Myah, went trick or treating with her friends.

In the end, Ashley had a nice haul of her favorites. The candy swap with Ayla and Lina meant each kid left with their favorites. What more can you ask for on a holiday that is really just for the kids?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Willow Tree

We thought we were weathering Superstorm Sandy (October 29) nicely. We were home, with a full fridge of perishable goods, and internet access. What more could the 21st century family want?

About 8:30 PM Ashley and I were watching Downton Abbey on DVD in the basement, while Don was reading a book in the living room when suddenly he said "that doesn't sound good." 

We put on our shoes and went outside in the storm. In hindsight, that wasn't the best move, but that's what we did.

The weeping willow tree we planted in 2003 was on its side, brushing against the side of the house. Another year of growth and the tree would have been tall enough to cause some serious damage. In that regard, we consider ourselves lucky.

The next day we assessed the damage. It is amazing. The willow just uprooted and plopped on the ground next to it. During the storm I had visions of it breaking free and rolling through the neighborhood. Fortunately my imagination is more wild than reality.

Later that day, neighbor Jim Sapp came over with his chain saw to take care of the parts that were touching the house. Suddenly I felt as if I could take this tree down without a tree service.

In some ways, I wish I had kept the tree on its side. Ashley found it a lot of fun to climb and explore.

My stubborn streak kicked in, though. Over the next three days I used clippers to take care of the wispy parts, while the neighbor used his chain saw to take care of the trunk and the bigger branches. Don used a bow saw to take care of the medium-sized branches. Ashley helped out by dragging branches to the curb.

After Don took the bow saw to some branches, the tree began to right itself.

Jim came by with the chain saw one last time.

That's a lot of tree. Some of neighbors took some of their wood to cure and use in their fireplace next year. Seeing all this wood, and having weathered this storm, I've been tempted to talk to Don about installing a wood-burning stove or wood fireplace next year. Hopefully this is the last of the really big storms. No one in New Jersey is ready for another one.

In 2005

In 2009 with Ashley
April 2009

Superstorm Sandy

Those of us living in the path of Hurricane Sandy all have our own stories from October 29, 2012. In the week following the biggest storm many of us can recall, we still greet each other with "how long did you lose power?" and "how did you fare with the storm?" 

Should have taken a video of the dancing trees. My pictures don't do it justice.

Lucky are all those days nothing goes wrong

I had a couple of thoughts through this experience. One was how often we have a day where nothing goes wrong and we forgot to think how lucky were were that day. It takes a storm with minimal damage before we think of ourselves as "lucky."

We were "lucky" to "only" lose power for 31 hours. A week later some are still without power. At the time, though, it didn't feel lucky. Prior to Sandy, our longest outage was only 4 hours. We did not prepare for losing power. I had plenty of food in the house -- but it all needed to be cooked.

We lost power the first time for an hour when the storm started at 7 AM. In the afternoon (as I was cooking dinner) we lost it for two more hours. Finally at 10:15 PM we lost power for 31 hours. Ashley and I spent most of the day at home. When Don came home and offered to take us back to his office so we could take a shower and use the internet, we were pretty excited by the outing. That shows you how bored we were at home.

One of the biggest issues with losing power is that it pushes you into the fear of the unknown. There is no way to figure out WHEN power will be restored. Nor is there a guarantee that it will stay on. The following Saturday we lost power for another 2 hours. Fortunately it was 10 PM and we just went to bed wondering if we would wake up to have the power restored.

Upgrades are not necessarily improvements

The other thing I learned through the storm was that upgrades are not necessary better in the long run. As the technician was finishing converting us from copper phone lines to "better" fiber optic ones, he told me "by the way, the battery with this system only works for 8 hours. If you lose power for more than 8 hours, you will lose phone service." When I quizzed him on that, he said that's 8 talking hours, not 8 actual hours. He was partially right. We still lost phone service after one brief call and 10 hours.

I also learned that cell phone towers only have an 18-hour battery. After that, they stop working and so does your ability to make a cell phone call. 

Remind me, what was wrong with our copper wire lines?

New-found respect

As Hurricane Sandy was downgraded, and we did not receive the predicted rains, my thoughts turned to the people of New Orleans and all they suffered through Hurricane Katrina. At the worst, Sandy was a category 1 hurricane. Katrina was category 5 hurricane. I'll admit I have not memorized at what wind speeds a hurricane jumps to the next level, but I do know there were the wind was so strong and seemingly never-ending. Surely, it must have been the end of the world about to happen.

I also gained more respect for those without heat and power. We were "lucky" it was "only" 31 hours. By the 20 hour mark I was ready for a hot shower and a chance to get on-line. Our dragon, Sandy Claws, was getting cold. We all took turns snuggling with him.

Therefore, after dinner (cold left-over chicken from our refrigerator that stopped working 19 hours earlier) we drove to Don's office for warmth. We were not the only family in exile that evening. As we left at 9, a family was arriving with their children in the PJs. I wondered if they were planning to stay there all night, or just coming over to recharge.

Overall, our biggest loss was a 20-foot tall willow tree. We are still sad looking at the bare spot, but we still count ourselves lucky.

Ashley's thoughts on the storm:

We lost our power for about 31 hours (before we went to bed on Tuesday and just before we woke up on Wednesday.) 

We did lose a tree. It was, unfortunately, the best tree in the yard. It was a weeping willow. We miss it and are trying to clean it up. A lot up neighbors have come over to "pay their respects". They have all said just how much they will miss it. It was about 20 feet tall. Any taller, and it would have hit the house and caused a lot of damage on the way down.

We did pretty well during Sandy. The biggest thing I was worried about, though, was the dragon. He's from Australia, which is a desert-like climate, so when the electricity was off, he couldn't have his heat lamp on. I think after the storm he was a little mad at us for not turning on his light. Or any light, for that matter. I don't think he liked the darkness. 

How did you fare with the storm? How long did you lose power?