Monday, September 24, 2007

So, I went away this weekend for another meeting, which was pretty enjoyable, and I walked away with a good several things added to my to-do list, but I guess that's what happens when you're the one who gets the paycheck. No complaints, and we actually have some things lined up that should go well, and as usual it was great to see everyone, and we had some crazy times. haha.
It was at the Lucerne Inn, which is up in the mountains and is absolutely beautiful. The accomodations and food leave some to be desired, but I guess you just pay for the view.
But anyway- before we departed on that venture, my mom got an email from one of our theater friends who was moving. She needed to get rid of her beautfiul, well behaved beagle before they could move. My mom had been contemplating getting another dog, but she just said, "when it's the dog we're supposed to have, it'll be brought to us." so sure enough, this dog sounded just like what we should have. So my mom made the phone call (and called my dad of course...) and yesterday Lizzy the Lemon Pie beagle arrived at our house.

We all have to retrain ourselves to have a nice dog. I'm left alone with her during the day and this morning I even let her lay in bed with me and I didn't care, but we've sort of just been staring at each other, because she doesn't know who I am and i'm like "I pet you and you just sit there, without growling. Weird." But I'll admit it is pretty cool to have company during the day again, and you know... company I'm not terrified of and have to avoid...

Anyway- so that's another huge change in our family. There's definitely been a lot these past couple of months. But it's so good! I'm happy

Now playing: 10 Years - Autumn Effect
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, September 20, 2007

NFI Grantee Meeting:

So I just got home from my first business meeting ever. It was a D70 Grantee meeting, which means it was all other states who receive the grant that we have and we discuss what we're doing with it and the varying progresses.
It was amazing. It was completely mentally exhausted, but equally exciting. My mom and I flew into DC Monday afternoon, and I was reminded of how I love flying so much! I think being above the clouds is one of the most amazing things ever, and it was such a literalization of how far I've come and how I really am "above" Farmington, and everything I've gotten through. I felt like I was in a movie.
The meeting wasn't until the next day, so we had some time to go shopping around the city and get dinner. We went into American Apparel, and there was a little Australian Shepherd puppy who wanders around the store wearing one of their T-shirts, and he was absolutely adorable.

Then since it was just the two of us, we had a sushi dinner and toasted to a new business venture. After dinner, we went back to the hotel, got changed and met Patti in the lobby for drinks with "the national folks." We had come home. All of these people had been in "the system" for years and we're finally at this point where we can get together at a national level and discuss the changes we've made. We shared stories and experiences of challenges and successes and my mom got to talk to so many different parents that had been in similar situations. As she said, "it was like drowning for so many years and then finally coming up for air."

The next morning was the actual meeting and we wanted to take our time getting ready, so we ordered breakfast in the room and I had a divine croissant and authentic cappuccino, which was he perfect start to the day. After going downstairs and finally figuring out where I needed to go, I got registered, with my official name tag and title which was pretty cool, and we had some time to meet other people and chat. then we went to our first breakout session which had various states talking about their parent to parent programs they have, and although they didn't mention youth until we asked them, it was a pretty good session.

It was weird to realize that I was the only "youth" there. Everyone talked about their Youth Advisory Committees (YAC) but I'm truly the only youth to be hired to do this full time and actually be the voice of all the youth that aren't in positions, or can't speak up. It's pretty intense. But I'm proud to be that voice. Everyone was so excited to have me there and told me all about their youth counsels and what they're doing or hope to achieve and how I can help. It was awesome to be so respected and treated as a professional equal.

After lunch we had our breakout session about our youth involvement, and I actually spoke to everyone about how I got involved and everything we've done as far as planning conferences and everything, and what our next steps were. We presented with Arizona (who's reps were so awesome and had cute bags! One of them looked like Britney Spears and had started a Coach girls club at our table), and North Carolina and everyone had really good programs going. It was a great presentation.

It was a ridiculously long day, but after all the focusing mom and I went out with Deb and Toni and one of their friends Beth, and we sat in the bar for awhile, where they were playing the entire Michael Buble CD so I pretty much died. I've decided I love him a lot.

Then we hit the town and had dinner at Macaroni Grill which was divine, since my ultimate love is pasta! And while we were waiting, Toni and I went across the street to Ulta, which is like a Sephora, but it has drugstore brands too. It was awesome. I'm so going back in October!

After the next sessions the next day- we took a cab to the airport, and we shopped, and I finally bought the Vera Bradley bag I had debated about all through college. I finally have a stable income and it was time to reward myself. It was just meant to be that I bought it in a DC airport instead of Farmington!

Now I'm home and exhausted and leaving again tomorrow for our Family/Youth Advisory Council meeting, but at least that's in Maine. But I'm busy...and Happy!

so is life! I'm a business woman now!!! what what!!!

you know you love me!


Thursday, September 13, 2007

It’s starting to feel like fall. I guess that makes sense, since it’s almost the last week in August, and you know…this is the first time in years I actually don’t mind! I’m actually sort of looking forward to fall this year. Being home and warm, enjoying pumpkin spice lattes all week, instead of just on the weekends… all the little things that make fall good, without the stress and misery of going back to school.

My nails are French manicured, I have a pink sapphire on my finger, showtunes in my heart (not that that’s anything new) and slowly, I feel the remains of Farmington leaving me. Not the people, or the memories by any means, but I feel the new “grownup” Mal emerging. I’m content with my job, and my life and the fact that I have things to look forward to. Seeing Les Mis after fourteen years of knowing it and living with it, really solidified a happy release and sense of closure, and now it’s like I can just go forward. Or I’m just a nerd who finds too much symbolism in everything. Oh well, either way.

ANYWAY- the trip!

On the Way!
We left for the city on Sunday, August 12th, in our van that did not have air conditioning. It broke a week before we were supposed to leave and we can’t invest that much to fix it when the car is ready to go anyway, but we were silly and took that car anyway so Mais and I could each have our own long seat instead of bringing my van with AC. We realized that mistake when we entered about
Connecticut and it was 94 OUTSIDE. I thought I had heatstroke… but we’d just stop and rehydrate and when we got to the city it didn’t matter anyway. OH- and before we even left, we called the hotel to confirm our reservations, and they had them for the wrong day! So we wouldn’t have a room til Tuesday night…but we called my aunt and she told us to go ahead and leave, and by the time we were out of Maine she had called us back and said everything was all set and gave us someone to talk to. Phew. We were set!

When we got into the city, it was about a thousand degrees, but even with heatstroke I nearly jumped out of the car when we drove by the Neil Simon Theater and Hairspray was letting out and the cast was outside. Obviously we didn’t stop, but it was just the introduction to the excitement. Oh, and we drove by Gershwin and I’m pretty sure I saw Fiyero walking down the street with his boyfriend in tow (although I’m not sure who’s playing him right now, but he LOOKED like Norbert, so I would’ve casted him!)

Our room was small, but had two beds, and we really weren’t there all that much anyway. The beds were COMFY (not W Hotel comfy…but good nonetheless). After we got settled in (and showered and changed since we were sweaty and melted) we ventured into Times Square to find dinner. We ended up at a pan Asian place called Ruby Foo’s which was pretty yummy, and had a great atmosphere. We chatted with our waiter Doug and learned that he was only there for about a week more before he began the national tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels! Naturally we got his autograph, haha. We’re dorks. We were still totally wound up after dinner and we didn’t want to waste a minute so we walked around Times Square for awhile, just to see what we wanted to hit before we left! The crowd was soooo intense since all the shows were letting out and apparently Sundays are nuts, which is funny since in Maine it’s like “oh look, Sunday. The world is closed!” It was amazing.

Day 1
There was definitely no trouble sleeping. Maisy didn’t even end up sprawled across the bed, so I slept great, and we woke up bright and early at 8 the next morning! We asked our bellhop where he recommended for breakfast and we went to the Applejack café which was really good. We ate quickly, and then ventured to Madame Tussaud’s. I went when we saw RENT in 03, but obviously they get new stuff all the time, and Maisy had never been before! We all had a blast, and it definitely was updated a bit since the last time we went. On the first floor alone there were like four people we had met in real life! It was pretty sweet.

When we got to one of the last floors there was an American Idol exhibit where you could pretend to audition for the show, but it was really karaoke, my mom went to pose with the pretend Simon (cause she loves him…) and clearly Maisy and I found the book of songs and told the lady to sign us up for Out Tonight. Two little girls went and sang Bop to the Top from high school musical (Maisy enjoyed every minute of it!) terribly (well duh, cause they’re like five but it was cute-ish) then Mais and I got to go, and we had our “audition” photo taken, and then we sang, like we do and by then an audience had formed and we actually got a huge applause, and the lady running it said “Whoa, I think that is the first time people didn’t even glance at the words!” Naturally. Now we can add NYC to our karaoke repertoire! Bout time!

After that adventure, we moved next door to Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditoreum. This definitely was not as fun, but it made you go “whoa…” and there was a lot to look at. I got to stand next to the world’s tallest man (was over 8 feet at age 15….and I thought I had it rough!) and it was a great opportunity to take some fun pictures!

By the time we were done there, the day was only half done and we got an amazing lunch at a deli that had absolutely delicious salads for really cheap. Good eyes Mal, good eyes!

After substantially refueling on wonderful salad goodness, we crossed the street to the Hello Kitty Store. Yes folks, a STORE. I am so going back there when I get an apartment! It was so much fun. You can do an entire baby’s room in Hello Kitty, and they had bikes and jewelry and you name it. I didn’t get anything, but it was definitely a fun store!

We headed down to fifth avenue where the real fun began. Granted, I didn’t shop that much, as I didn’t exactly feel like laying down $300 on a pair of sunglasses when it really came down to it. Plus, the ones I want are Coach and I need to give our wee Portland store my business, but it was awesome just seeing huge Prada and LV stores and Gucci ads the size of an entire building…Mmmm. And the place we did end up at was nothing to sneeze at.

Did you know the doors of Tiffany’s look like doors of a vault? The elevator is the same thing. Yes there’s an elevator…because the stuff I can afford is on the third floor, but if you really want a $35,000 diamond encrusted bumblebee engagement ring, first floor is where you should be! I however was not in the market for that (nor would I ever be if I even had 35k to spend…) so we went upstairs in the marble elevator, and on the third floor, Dad and Maisy hung out in the comfy couches in the “living room” of sorts, by the window and mom and I searched the counter. I knew I wanted sterling silver but there were a couple I was torn between a few. After a little while, and trying on a few rings (I’m actually a 5 ½ in Tiffany’s… who would’ve thought) but when the lady pulled it out… I knew. I had seen it online but it looked a tiny bit better on my finger!

It’s a pink sapphire! I’ve wanted one like since I knew they existed, and I’m absolutely enamored with it! The lady was absolutely superb and treated me wonderfully. She wrapped it all up (even though I wore it out I still got the box and the little bag) and wished me congratulations on graduating! Lovely.

By now Maisy was pretty much exhausted, so we began to head home, but FAO Schwartz was right nearby and she wanted to stop, so we did. You’re never really too old for that place! They had a huge section of one floor devoted to Harry Potter, with an entire line of Madame Alexander dolls of all the characters, and I had to force myself very firmly to not buy a stuffed Crookshanks kitty. I do have a weakness for orange kitties.

It was pretty much 1000 degrees after this, so we took a cab back to the hotel to get changed and freshened up for dinner (of course somehow we ended up sitting in Central park for an hour so Maisy and I could get our portraits’s mom’s “treasure…” )

Dinner was at our favorite place in the whole city- Ellen’s Stardust Diner. The wait staff is all aspiring actors who are either between jobs, or waiting to get their “big break” and they sing while they wait. The food is amazing too. The entire time we were there it was like they had planned a customized playlist just for us. The first waitress, (Lea) sang Like a Prayer. We always would get to know the people and see what they had done/were doing, and it was really cool. The waitress we had that night was in training at the restaurant but had just finished touring with Chita Rivera in A Dancer’s Life, I was like “oh my god! I love her! We did a show together in 98!” That gets their attention. Once they realized we knew our stuff and were huge showtunes freaks (even though we’re from Maine) they basically performed FOR us. Our waiter, we found out had just done the national tour of RENT, so the trainee, April was like “he says he’ll do something from RENT for you.” Sweet! We figured he’d do Seasons of Love, or something that anybody would know, UM NO. He got another waiter (Scooooott), and they did What you Own. Of all the songs in the show. I died. He gave Maisy and me his Myspace (we’re Myspace friends with the entire wait staff) Later that night, we were looking at it on my Treo. Um yea…he was Mark. In the national tour of RENT. Sweet.

After that, we were obviously too wired to go to bed (like every night) so we adopted the routine of just walking around Times Square before bed. That night we ended up at the world’s biggest Toys R Us, and Maisy and I bought Aquadots, and played in Barbie’s house. It was so randomly fun!

Day 2

I actually slept really well every night. I think it helped to just go until we dropped because otherwise I would’ve gone crazy. We were up at about 8 every morning. The next morning, I had a lovely raspberry mocha courtesy of the dad once again then we headed out to breakfast. We didn’t feel like thinking of a new place to go, so we just went back to Ellen’s since we loved it and it was right around the corner from our hotel. Scott was still working, and he was our waiter again. Maisy was completely star struck from the night before, so he made a special point to serenade her and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her turn so red. It was perfect. And I had the best real and true cappuccino ever!

Then my favorite part of the day (and one of the highlights of the entire trip) occurred. We took a cab to Henri Bendel’s where the MAC studio. This store brought shivers to my spine and I think I had a storegasm…that Tiffany’s didn’t even cause. The entire first floor was different cosmetic brands, and there was a blue velvet staircase lined with Chanel sunglasses. It was like a Disney movie created just for me! I was completely in awe, and we didn’t have that much time, so I sighed and bypassed all of that, and went straight to the MAC studio since that was what was on the itinerary. Now this is the part that blew my mom away I guess, but it worked. A good friend of mine said “walk in like you own the place.” And so my motto has become “Walk in like you own the place and they’ll treat you like you do!” Before I even got to the MAC counter, I was just walking around and a guy from another counter said “How’s it going sweetie? OH MY GOD I love your eyeshadow!” Tres fabulous. It made me skip, and I just replied, “Thanks! Off to buy more!”

The MAC lady asked me if there was something I needed and I said “Yes! This lovely lady is starting high school next week and she needs a look that is basic and age appropriate but makes her look as gorgeous as she is!” And poof! A lovely makeup guy came and whisked a wide-eyed Maisy away and did exactly what we asked for! She loved it, I loved it, mom approved, and it was easy enough for her to do herself in the morning before school. Mission accomplished. Then of course it was my turn and I said “show me how to use my purples!” And he did, and I bought a few things, and we both looked stunning for our show that evening! In and out, easy as pie! Now mom is intrigued and I’m going to take her to the lovelies in Portland! Yay for being a MAC Family!

After being MAC’ed (that sounds like a bad thing…) we headed over to the Met for the afternoon. It was actually very interesting. There was an impressionist exhibit, so we saw Monets and Renoires and a Van Gogh (although nothing too good of his), and there was a greek art exhibit of all ancient artifacts which was really fun! It definitely a different experience and more culture than we’ll ever get in Portland. I’m really glad Maisy got to go (even though she was a bit cranky in the beginning). We also took pictures on the steps and basked in the sun for awhile a la Gossip Girl.

We had a few hours to kill before we needed to leave for the first show we were seeing (Chicago) so we ate an early dinner. We were going to just try a random sushi restaurant by the hotel but as we were Taking a cab home we realized we were going to go right by our favorite place by Lincoln Center where Maisy really wanted to eat so we just stopped there. It was just as amazing as we all remembered!

After eating, we grabbed a cab back to the hotel, and I almost died, but mom saved me. I grabbed the handle of the cab to get in (cause it was like a mini van kind) and the handle came clean off and I would’ve skull splatted on the pavement if mom hadn’t been behind me. That would’ve ruined the entire week.

BUT I didn’t die, and we made it back to the hotel. Maisy, mom and I went to a store nearby that had adorable clothes and accessories for way too good prices, and I got four pairs of earrings for $15! They were buy 3 get 1 free and they were all $5, and Maisy got a whole new wardrobe for school.

Back at the hotel, we got glammed up, and headed over to the theater where Chicago was. Ironically it was across from Spring Awakening and we all got a little emo, but we got over it. We took proper care as tourists and posed by the posters before we went inside. The theater was cute and small, and did you know theaters have bars? They do. And you can pre-order a drink for intermission. Lovely, although I didn’t. I wanted all my theater experiences to be entirely pure and remembered. They also have “booster seats” now, which are velour cushions that match the seat so it is entirely classy and conspicuous. I proudly took full advantage. I’m not going to pay for Broadway tickets and then not see to the best of my ability when there’s a way that I can, that’s silly!

As soon as the overture started I remembered, “oh my god I love theater!” I just got ridiculously excited. The show was good. It was very funny, and the cast was super talented. Billy Flynn was not James Naughton, and Velma Kelly was not Chita Rivera, but just the same it was a really fun show. It was really cool though, because I had done the ’98 gala with Chita and Jim, and realized after seeing the real show they had USED some of the real choreography in our All That Jazz number! Eek! If I knew then what I know now! Haha!

After the show, we went to ELLEN’S! I had an amazing white chocolate martini, and they didn’t even question my ID (yay MAC makeover!) Again the wait staff was amazing, and one of the waiters asked “who just saw Chicago?” So of course we squealed and he proceeded to sing Mr. Cellophane! Again, we got to know our waitress (Amanda!) and she said she’d do something Broadway for us. She got up and said “Does anyone like Wicked” We sat in silence.

KIDDING! Just keeping you on your toes!

We shrieked and jumped in our seats, and she and another waitress (Jen) did a killer rendition (and I don’t say that about just anyone, you all know that) of Defy Gravity, and I almost go teary, but they made it funny (Jen! Come with me!, “I can’t! I have to bring these people their milkshakes!”) and she even got a broom at one point. It was just perfect. Then Amanda did The Wizard & I by herself, just for us!

This was the first night we just went home after since it was already like midnight, and the next day was our big Les Miz day! We woke up a little later and took our time getting ready for brunch at Tavern on the Green. We all looked quite fabulous, and we took a cab over to Central Park. They didn’t open til 11:30, which is when our reservations were for, so we took awhile just hanging out taking pictures, and Maisy was into the carriage horses. She had been in quite the mood until we got there and she saw horses, then her mood was transformed. Soon it was time to go in, and we walked through the inside, underneath the amazing chandelier and were brought out the garden where we were going to eat because it was another perfect day! The food was absolutely wonderful. Even the bottled Fiji water (yes, they served us Fiji water. Amazing) and selection of bread and rolls we had was delectable! It was so much fun, and we felt completely at home (much of how we felt all week). After the best meal of smoked salmon I’ve had in my entire life, and a dessert of crème brulee maisy and I didn’t even have time to take a picture of before we devoured it, we caught a cab back to the theater for Les Mis.

We got there fair enough in advance, but still had to wait in line. We bought a program to flip through and were bursting with so much excitement it didn’t even feel like we had to wait. When we got inside, we were escorted to our seat, in THE 2ND ROW. I literally could’ve reached out and poked the conductor of the pit. It was so surreal. For the beginning of the first act the people in the first row weren’t even there, so it was literally me, then the stage. We made eye contact with the actors.
as soon as the show began, I knew it was going to be intense, not just because we were there and it was live, but I had been dreaming, and waiting to see this show for about fourteen years. I remember the week it closed on Broadway. I was trying to figure out a way to get there and see it, and be back before my senior prom, so every note and song was laced with so many memories, and represented a chapter of my life. I almost began crying at the second scene, but held it back. The second act began with On my Own and that was pretty much all she wrote. By the end I was just sobbing. I always end up next to my dad when this happens, and he’s just so great. He tried to make contact with me, and I just smiled through my tears and wouldn’t look at him, I didn’t want to miss a second, then he patted my leg, like he does. He was just as into the show as we were, and talked about it for days after. During curtain call, I literally was able to walk up to the stage, and as I sniffled, and nodded with approval, the little boy who played Gavroche just looked at my tear streaked face and smiled. I just felt this immense sense of closure and appreciation for all that had happened and the fact that- here I was, seeing a show I grew to love when I was eight, and finally, after graduating college it had happened, the battle had been won and I could move on. It was time for a new chapter, and another show. My whole family was there, together, sharing this moment of accomplishment, love and intensity. It was just so perfect. It sounds silly, I guess I can’t really explain, but it had powers beyond the stage…or as much power as any stage can.

After we bought Tshirts we left the theater and began to try to hail a cab, but there weren’t many around. Maisy pointed down the street to the exit of the theater and said “What are they all doing?” To the crowd of people huddled by the theater.

I told her, “They’re waiting for the cast to come out.” She just looked at me and I said, “We don’t have anywhere to be, LET’S GO!” so we went to join the group and after my mom’s initial “omg be careful speech,” I said, “thank you, but seriously, I’m 22 years old.” My sister hung around waiting for something to happen and I said, “oh no Babe, you gotta shoooove your way up there!” And we did!
We ended up right on the gate where the actors were coming out, and we got to chat with most of them. Maisy even caught Lea Solonga, and we have her autograph on one of our programs (who- I recently discovered is the singing of Mulan and Princess Jasmine. Whoa!) We met Marius, Gavroche, the Inn Keeper and his wife (the inn keeper was Roger
DeBris in the Producers Movie, and his wife was Ann Harada, Christmas Eve from Ave Q!!!!) As the crowd started to disperse since all the actors had mostly come out, we left the gate and went to see mom who had just sort of wandered off to do her own thing. As I was walking up to her, she approached me and said “Hey, Valjean and I were just talking and he wants to meet you.”

Wait… he wants to meet me. My mom had totally waited at the end of the crowd til everyone had done the meet and greet thing and was just hanging out with Valjean on the sidewalk and apparently she had told him about me. He was super nice, and we talked for a bit and compared tattoos. He has one on his arm and wanted a wrist one but was afraid it would hurt. I told him to suck it up it didn’t hurt and was totally worth it. Now we’re MySpace friends.

After awhile, everyone went on their way and we caught a cab (well, I caught our cab) back to the hotel. The entire thing was so exciting and surreal; it was weird to see it end. Fourteen years and poof, it was done.

We got back to the hotel and freshened up for dinner with the family from CT. They had trained in for the evening and we had a huge dinner all together at the hotel restaurant. It was good to catch up with everyone and tell them about our week. The food wasn’t the best we had, but the bread and company was good!

After dinner, we didn’t want to waste our last night going to bed early so we hit up times square again and randomly went to the M&M Store which was like three stories tall, then my one request was to go to the Virgin Megastore! So we finally did that! Three floors of music and media = Whoa…There was even a Michael Jackson dancer/impersonator who was really really good! We took great advantage of the $10 CD sale (spring awakening, jersey boys, Hairspray oh my!) then we headed back to one last night in our Times Square beds!

The final morning consisted of a final breakfast at Ellen’s where the waitstaff praised us for our patronage and bid us farewell musically, and we packed up the car and drove home. The four days felt like minutes, but not a single one was wasted, and none will be forgotten. We’re already planning our next trip (although…because of my job our next vaca may be in Miami!!!) …The Little Mermaid hits Broadway in November! ;-)

All the pics...just in case you haven't seen them!, part deux, part tres, foooour., The end?

Now playing: Avril Lavigne - Keep Holding On
via FoxyTunes