Womens March St. Petersburg, Florida

16196074_10154722654160923_3727642219742996088_nOn Saturday, January 21, I marched with over 20,000 people through the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, to show my love and support for the people I share this globe with. I did not march because of a whiny person on Twitter. I marched to feel better about the dialogue happening around me and online – to feel unity and camaraderie at a time when many are polarizing. I wanted to feel community and warm fuzzies, and I found those things. (If I wanted to dwell on anger and hate, I could have found that elsewhere, by why seek that negativity out?)

Here are some reactions I captured from Facebook after the event:

DD2 with me

DD2 with me

“It’s not just about making memories, it’s about also making history.” (My daughter wrote that one.)

“Love – not hate – makes America great.”

“How Ironic, so much division has created so much unity!”

“What an incredible historic experience.”

“I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”

“Make rapists afraid again.”

“1 in every 2,333 persons in the world were out marching today. Let that sink in.”

16265275_10154722652810923_7095660124806334957_n“Standing up for rights with 17,000+ friends.”

“Inspiring morning of love and unity! Proud to be a part of this amazing community and country!”

“A woman’s place is in the House… and the Senate.”

“Love wins.”

“Choose Love”

“Stronger together!!!!!!”

“Demens Landing is packed for #WomensMarchStPete! I love our city!”

“Together, we’ve got this!”

16114115_10154724806490923_5889764783423754309_n“I am so proud of those who stood for LOVE today in St. Pete! Estimated attendance was 20,000+ people. Women, men, and children of all different ages, races, and sexual orientations. One Love.”

“Unforgettable experience to be among 20 thousand amazing and hopeful women and men.”

“Diversity is beautiful! Kindness is powerful! Equality is everything!”

“Just saw an older woman in a suffragette outfit. I complimented it. Her response: ‘Different era, same shit.'”

“Public displays of love and respect.”

20,000+ people marched in St. Pete.

20,000+ people marched in St. Pete.

“Today I marched next to thousands of women that stood up and spoke up about what we believe in. I was so proud to have been in the company of such welcoming and loving people. The city of St. Pete was more than gracious and kept us safe as we marched. We chanted, we yelled, we cried but mostly, we laughed, we smiled and we stood together. For those of you around the world marching with us today, thank you. We will be stronger and louder than ever before.”

“Thank you to all the marchers and supporters today. The mood was wonderfully upbeat, the commitment palpable and I really loved the signs. I look forward to joining with everyone to continue the fight.”

“Thank you, because in a very big way, this single Mom/Student feels better. I feel hope where only despair lived. Thank you all that marched (Peacefully!) so I did not fear my children being hurt.”

“Is this happening once a month? Cause I’m down…”


Love, not hate, makes America Great! (aka my daughter in a banyan tree.)

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Fiasco’s Into the Woods at the Straz Center, Tampa

into-the-woodsbroadwayIn 1989, the full original Broadway cast of Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s “Into the Woods” (with the exception of Cindy Robinson as Snow White instead of Jean Kelly) reunited for 3 performances for the taping of the musical in its entirety for the Season 10 premiere episode of PBS’s “American Playhouse”. When it aired on March 15, 1991, I popped a worn tape in the VCR and made a horrible copy. This is the version of “Into the Woods” my daughters grew up with. The professional video has since been released, remastered and re-released. It is considered to be the original Into The Woods. (You can watch it here.)

In 2014, a film version was released, which I’m guessing most of you saw. I mean – Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp, Tracey Ullman and a Christmas Day release date could be the perfect fairy tale. I actually much preferred the original version, but by now my tape is pretty hard to watch. Luckily someone gave me a DVD version of the PBS special!

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Shorecrest dress rehearsal photo by Leslie Ellen Photography

Then, this fall, the school I work at, known for lavish musical productions, performed “Into the Woods” much like the original version. The sets were gorgeous, the costumes were perfect, the teens gave it their all! This was no school auditorium make-shift production. This was a professional theatre production that happened to have high-school-aged actors.

Now Fiasco Theater has reimagined “Into the Woods.” If you’ve seen the show before, like me, you’ve most likely not seen anything similar to this! It’s completely stripped down. It’s only a 10-person cast, and there is no orchestra. The instruments are strewn around the edges of the stage and the actors occasionally pick them up and play them. The set is also stripped down, using a few tables and boxes and a ladder to get the point across. It’s low-tech and very accessible, and made me think back to making up skits in my grandmother’s basement with my cousins.

It’s hard to not get caught up in the differences every time you see a beloved show reimagined by a new Director, costume artist, stage manager, etc. (No narrator, a cow’s death sequence, actors as musicians?) And this is truly a whole new production – with a focus on pantomime and reacting. But what remains the same are the clever, tongue-twisting, fast-talking lyrics and the highly personal themes.

My favorite of these comes from the simple lyric, “Into the woods to get the thing that makes it worth the journeying.”

So much thought caught up in a seemingly unassuming sentence! What makes it all worth it? What makes you get up every day? What makes you face fear and uncertainty? What makes you put yourself out there around new people and experiences?

And this is the genius of Sondheim, wrapping itself around your brain. You can grab at the surface alone and enjoy the fairy tale, or you can realize that every song is giving you a lesson or a warning.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-8-21-33-amThink I’m nuts? That I’m reading too much into it? Consider for a moment that Little Red Riding Hood is not meeting a wolf, but a first teenage romance, and then listen to the lyrics:

“He made me feel excited, well, excited and scared. Though scary is exciting, nice is different than good.

Isn’t it nice to know a lot? …and a little bit not.”

If you haven’t seen the show, you may have gathered from the names I’ve mentioned that the show follows fairy tale characters, both familiar and new, as their stories intersect in pursuit of their dreams in the mysterious woods surrounding their kingdom. The show is a fascinating musical tapestry about hopes and dreams, triumphs and failures, as it explores the question, “Is there really a happily ever after?”

itwbloggersAs I walked into the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall for their production running through Dec 4, with 2 complementary tickets courtesy of Tampa Bay Bloggers, I was warned that the first act is 90 minutes long. (In other words, visit the ladies’ room and unwrap your candy now.) And Act 1 is almost like 2 acts blended together. Just as the cast sits comfortably and you think the lights will come up, Jack (of giant and beanstalk fame) suddenly proclaims “There are giants in the sky!” and a new storyline unfolds.

When we marketed the performance at work, a school including ages 3-18, we gave parents a warning. “The production is split into two acts, the first of which highlights popular fairy tale personalities like Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Prince Charming portrayed as normal, flawed people. There’s a witch, a wolf and a giant, but the scares are mild for young viewers. Intermission may be a good time to leave with little ones, however. As the play progresses into Act 2, plot twists become more mature and at times dark, reminding the audience, ‘be careful what you wish for’. Characters tackle moral dilemmas in ways that will resonate with viewers aged 15 and up.” So that’s my note for you if you are taking little-littles to the show. You can almost get away with ducking out at intermission if they are sleepy enough. The songs even come back around to the popular “Into the Woods” refrain where everything started.

The themes of family relationships, facing your fears, helicopter parenting and creating unity are also very prevalent. The Baker and his Wife may even make you ponder the American Dream. The show is truly timely and relatable for all ages. And we’re lucky that this new production is hitting Tampa very early in it’s US Tour! Grab your tickets here ASAP!

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Relax, Recharge, Release: What to do When You Need a Break

Being the best parent you can be takes both physical and emotional energy! While it’s easy to forget about your own needs when you’re taking care of your kids, it’s important to recharge your batteries so you don’t become burned out. With that said, here are three ways to nurture your own mind, body and spirit.

Mind: Join a Book Club or Other Social Circle in Your Community

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Bloggers getting crazy!

Joining a local book club is not only a great way to feed your mind with knowledge but also the perfect place to meet other people in your community.  If you’re into sports or games, consider joining a softball or a bowling league in your area. I like to meet friends for trivia nights with my husband, and I am a member of the Tampa Bay Bloggers. We get together for fun events all around town.

According to Happify Daily:

  • Strong friendships are as good for your health as quitting smoking and are better for it than exercising or maintaining a healthy weight.
  • People are 12 times likelier to feel happy when they spend at least six hours per day with family and friends.
  • Doubling your group of friends has the same impact on your well-being as a 50 percent increase to your income.

While connecting with people online can also be beneficial, the point here is to get out of your house and away from your children – as much as you love them. Schedule some time at least once each month to cultivate your friendships.

Body: Set a Physical Goal and Arrange Your Life Around Achieving It

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At the Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation “One Step Closer To The Cure” 5K with my friend Shannon, a survivor.

While you might think running after your kids substitutes for daily exercise – and it certainly might feel like it – it’s important that you invest at least 30 minutes per day during the week on conditioning your body. Eating healthy and staying in shape should remain a priority so later you can chase after your grandkids. Whether you’re aiming to increase your daily steps or training for a marathon, come up with a physical goal and create a daily exercise routine to help you accomplish it.

A healthy daily exercise routine will:

  • Prevent weight gain and help with weight loss
  • Combat harmful health conditions and diseases.
  • Improve mood, boost energy and promote deeper sleep cycles

Spirit: Practice Daily Meditation and Weekly Yoga

Have you tried aerial yoga?

Have you tried aerial yoga?

Relaxing your mind for as little as five minutes per day through the act of meditation has countless physical and mental health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, an improved immune system and decreased anxiety. A great intro to meditation is simply catching yourself at moments throughout the day when you can pause and think, “This is my breath going in, this is my breath going out” for three breaths – while at a red light, or while waiting for the next thing on the computer to load. My husband likes the meditation app Headspace, which gives you 10-minute mindfulness sequences.

When attempting to meditate:

  • Sit with your back straight in a comfortable chair or lie on a blanket in the grass if being in nature is your jive
  • Close your eyes, inhaling and exhaling naturally.
  • Focus your attention on your breath, your body’s movement and a mantra.

To complement your daily meditation sessions, which can help you rest and relax in a chaotic moment, consider enrolling in a weekly yoga class to strengthen your muscles, improve your flexibility, relief stress, and detoxify your mind and body – or find a yoga class on Youtube that you enjoy. I like Sequence Wiz for recuperation and relaxation, or Sadie Nardini for a power workout.

Take care of yourself this holiday season, and make it a priority all the time!

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Living with Our Differences

blocksLast Friday I was part of a cool learning experiment. The school I work for brought in an expert who specializing in active block programs in schools. That means “playing blocks.” Did you play with blocks when you were a child? Maybe bright wooden ones that came in a large tub that doubled as a drum, or plastic LEGO-like blocks that could keep an imagination active for hours and a toe sore for days. We also had ABC blocks and Tinkertoys.

The session last week was about implementing a program that allows children to learn from their block play with the right amount of hands-on and hands-off guidance. We talked about what is at eye level in the room with the blocks, and photos of architecture to allow budding minds to expand when building. FIRST we played with blocks. For about 45 minutes our group broke into smaller groups of 2-4 and played with blocks. Most of the attendees taught kindergarten or first grade, and most were female over age 45. (I’m neither a teacher, but I was invited to attend so as to later make a video for parents explaining how blocks are used at the school.)

So there I was paired up with a woman older than me who taught DD2 first grade and a woman younger than me who had at one time been her soccer coach, and is also a kindergarten teacher. Coach wanted to make the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. We were happy to let her idea give us a place to start. First grade teacher started collecting some of the shapes she thought we might need that would run out quickly, and Coach wanted to use Google to find a picture of the Skyway as a reference. Then we got to building.

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I learned a few things in those 45 minutes. I learned the first grade teacher is very competitive. She overhead another group say they were building the Skyway as well, and watching their progress distracted her. I saw Coach emerge as the team lead architect – even though she didn’t care either way, she just wanted to make a bridge. I learned that I say “please” and “excuse me” a lot more than most six year olds playing with blocks do. I also learned it wasn’t PLAY at all. It was strategy and math and efficiency and architecture and physics. There was teamwork and collaboration and imagination and creativity. We were serious about our work, and as it ebbed and flowed we would get close and intense, and later step back and examine. And when we were done, we wanted to take a picture of it. I certainly couldn’t do that when I was six years old!

After 45 minutes we explored the room silently to see what everyone else had built. Then discussion started. People realized how different thought processes and personalities came into play. Who was a good leader and why? Who needed to draw plans before they started, and who just wanted to build and think later… We were mature enough to work well with these different personalities, but that’s a lot harder to do when you are a kindergartener.

My social media has been BLARING with different personalities lately as well – because of the Presidential Election. Those who seek reason, those who mouth off, those who ask for unity and those who repost news stories that were never fact-checked. My Facebook friends have not been mature enough to work well with other personalities.

This leads me to an opportunity for you to get insides someone else’s head.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is playing this week at the Straz Center in Tampa, Florida. It is a Tony Award®-winning new play adapted from Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel and directed by Tony winner Marianne Elliott. The lead character is a teenage boy on the autistic spectrum. He is exceptionally intelligent but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He does not understand feelings, comedy, metaphors, noise and pretty much anything else that doesn’t follow a logical pattern. He does understand time, math, detective work, and can name every prime number up to 7,057. His parents are trying to seek their own happiness while living with his quirks up close.

Talk about different personalities!

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I have mom-friends who are living like this boy’s mother, unable to hug their child for fear of a tantrum, or ready for the next time chaos ensues due to overstimulation. A close friend of mine who is a single mother to an autistic son once told me, “Nothing about parenting a child with autism will be anything like what you expected.”

And deep down I know parenting any child will not be like what you expected, but caring for my neurotypical daughters was a lot closer to the experience I had babysitting for my neurotypical neighbors, or being a camp counselor each summer to neurotypical 3-6 year olds. My daughters surprise me – coming out of the closet, getting tattoos, getting excited about Calculus 3, joining a kickball team, haircuts, boyfriends, girlfriends, emergency surgery, tantrums at Walt Disney World — but we are mature and loving enough to work well with each other’s personalities.

This play takes you inside the mind of a boy who is not neurotypical. From its very abrupt start, to its grid-like, minimalist set, you’ll be opened up to a new way of thinking — if you allow yourself to be. And I think we all grow and learn from that type of experience.

I recommend seeing this show. I recommend sitting near the stage. I also recommend bringing tissues – because you may laugh and cry your makeup off. Reality and truth aren’t always pretty, but they can smack you in the butt and remind you of what’s really important in life.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is playing this week through Nov 13th 2016 at the Straz Center in Tampa, Florida. I was given 2 free tickets to see the show, and as always all opinions are my own.

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Earth Fare: Healthy Grocery & Giveaway!

earth fare florida grocery store

Last month, I hadn’t heard of Earth Fare grocery stores. I should have, because there is one about 5 minutes from daughter’s apartment in Gainesville. (Chomp, chomp.) When I heard they were opening a new store in Seminole full of healthy food, I was quite intrigued. And when I was offered a tour and preview two days before the grand opening with the Tampa Bay Bloggers, I was thrilled!

Here’s the thing about health food – I’m a skeptic. I’ve done a lot of research, and I don’t buy into fad diets or crazy eating habits. I do think much of the standard American diet is junk and not real food. If you are looking to avoid that junk, perhaps lose weight or just get healthier, Earth Fare can actually help. Here’s why:

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Some stores have many products that fit in this box, but at Earth Fare, every item on the shelves meets these standards. I can’t promise you sugar free or gluten free, but I can promise you food free of red dye #6 zillion.

I’m going to tell you a bit about Earth Fare. And then I’m going to tell you how you can try to win a $25 gift card to go try the brand new store out for yourself! #Giveaway!

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Earth Fare started in Asheville, NC in 1975 with the commitment to providing Healthy Food for Everyone, food safe for the community. They have 75% organic produce. The store uses a reverse osmosis to mist the organic produce, so it’s not great stuff doused in gross water.

trail mix at earth fare

Walking past the produce section around the perimeter of the store, next you’ll find bulk nuts, candy and granola in bins, along with bulk liquids such as vinegar, honey, maple, olive oil – which you can take home in a small container or bring our own container. You can also grind your own peanut butter, dark chocolate peanut butter, cashew butter or almond butter.

Next come the seafood and deli sections. The seafood is traceable and sustainably sourced. We tasted some smoked salmon that was full of flavor and super juicy.

Yum, I've never seen these before... Apple chardonnay! No casing!

Yum, I’ve never seen these before… Apple chardonnay! No casing!

I also learned some stores have animals raised on antibiotics.Then before animals go to  the market, there is a withdrawal period for antibiotics, meaning any food or milk from animals that have been treated with an antibiotic may not enter the food supply until a predetermined amount of time has passed since the animal’s last dosage. But the animals at Earth Fare have NEVER been exposed to hormones or antibiotics. They’ve also been a leader in supplying cage-free eggs for over ten years.

If there's a cheese you're not sure of, they'll let you try before you buy!

If there’s a cheese you’re not sure of, they’ll let you try before you buy!

You can get organic or biodynamic wine, pet products, cleaning products, build your own six pack of fun beer (some local) – and they also offer catering.

The Earth Fare bakery offers 7 varieties of breads baked fresh in house daily from organic flour. I also hear they have gluten free angel food cake and amazing vegan cookies!

chocolate at earth fare

I would like to try every fair trade dark chocolate bar please!

The Seminole store will help try out their new Heirloom juice bar. You can get fresh pressed juices, smoothies, coffee and tea – and there are a few small tables to stop and enjoy them at, or you can take them quickly to go.

The store has partnered with the Edible Peace Patch project, a local nonprofit, and they are helping to fund a $10k garden at a Seminole public elementary school.

The last area we visited were the sustainable and environmentally friendly wellness and beauty products. The products represented a great variety of brands, and the prices were great!

You can wait till some of the newness wears down if you want, or get right on over to Earth Fare for their Fall Festival on Saturday from 12-3pm with activities just for kids, such as face painting and pumpkin decorating. They are open every day from 7am – 10pm at 7774 113th Street N, Seminole , FL 33772. I drove around a little at the new shopping strip going up behind the store, and there will be a Bealls, Steinmart, Homegoods, Ulta, Five Below and more. It looks so pretty!

Giveaway

So here’s how you can join in the fun and try to win a gift card from Earth Fare and ME for $25. It starts with you heading over to my Instagram account, @rafdarrow. There I have a slideshow from my Earth Fare tour. Hit like and leave a comment letting me know what you are most looking forward to seeing at the store – and in your comment use the hashtag #earthfaresem (for Earth Fare’s Seminole store.)

If you have something really strongly against Instagram, you can Tweet to me instead. Tag me @rafdarrow and use the same hashtag #earthfaresem. In your tweet tell me which weekly deal you’ll probably take advantage of first at Earth Fare.

And, yes, you can do BOTH and get entered in my drawing TWICE. But only one tweet or Insta-comment per reader please. You can leave a comment here, but it will not enter you in the giveaway. It will just give me a smile 🙂

Good luck, enjoy the store, and I will be tallying answers on Tuesday, 10/4 after 6pm so you need to tweet or Insta before then!

If you don’t live near me, here’s where to check to see if there is an Earth Fare in your neck of the woods.

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