It’s here! The day I’ve been preparing for, for over a year. Alarm got me up at 1:00 a.m.
Ate and stretched watching Gray’s Anatomy (great plots and character development, as usual).
Transferred a few final files to my travel laptop and cleaned the dusty screen. Changed from tennis shoes to snow boots (no idea what the walk from airport to car will be like in Madison, WI).
Hardly any traffic as Matt drove me to the airport, where we kissed and hugged our goodbyes. Although it was possible to check in using the kiosk, I couldn’t get it to work right (in spite of advice from the airline guy behind the counter, and finally asked him to help me check in and check my bag). When going through security, my duffel was checked. The Pringles can inside it looked like a water container to the x-ray machine. Chatted with the security person who looked through my bag. They ran my bag through again - all was well.
Filled both water bottles at a Starbucks. Shuffled stuff while waiting to board - moving immediate stuff to backpack. Thanked an Air Force guy for serving.
Offered candy to the flight attendants. A flight attendant said I could personally offer treats to the pilots, so after my luggage was stowed, I did.
Chatted with the passengers sitting to my right (I had an isle seat). Nice couple, on their first vacation without their kids (20, 18, 16) for a long, long time. Oldest kid is a kinesthetic learner, brilliant, loves putting stuff together, but can’t sit in a class to do math required for tech stuff, so works at QFC. Gave the mom my card and suggested a hands-on technical school. I suspect MIT has a “hands-on” degree. The way those students heads are geared, it just has to. Middle boy is going to flight school, and military academy. On the flight, read my Air & Space Smithsonian, and gave it to the mom, suggesting a subscription would make a great gift. She was happy.
When I wasn’t talking or reading, watched American Outlaws that a passenger (seated across and up) was watching on his laptop. Such a good movie.
The last few times I’ve flown, the planes have been warm. This trip, they were cold. I’d taken off my sweater, but snagged it and put it back on again. Even my legs were a little cold. My feet (in snow boots) never felt too warm.
While we were in the air, the stewardess read the names of the gates for all the connected flights. I used sign language to help me remember my gate. Landed in Denver, CO. My connecting flight’s terminal was towards the end of the building. Got to the gate 20 minutes before boarding. No place to sit, which was fine. Any time I waited today, I mentally ran through “Green Eggs & Ham”.
There were 3 gates at the end of the building, and passengers went outside to board, so the terminal was cold. I put on my jacket.
Tiny plane. Kept bonking my head on the overhead bins (not hard, but it was irritating).
Chatted with the gal sitting next to me (engaged and getting married in 2 months). My neighbor’s company does market research for other companies, so she flies all over to clients. Gave her my card. She’s trying to figure out what to give her fiancé as a wedding present. I made some suggestions, based on what she told me about him. Hopefully helped her figure it out.
She pointed out landmarks as we flew over Madison. Two big lakes, very flat area, spread out, and covered with maybe 4 inches of snow. Not too cold - 20-30 degrees F.
Called Matt. As I went down the escalator, saw an older man with white hair and a beard who looked like he was waiting. It was the principal, Paul Wiese!
My luggage appeared as we approached the conveyer belt. Small airport. We chatted during the drive.
There were a few things I wish I had a pictures of. Drove past The Dells, which is a famous local shopping mall. It’s a huge deal. People come from all over.
Then we drove past towers of rocks with a layer of snow on them - looked like a castle. The formations were created when glaciers covered and carved the land. They are all over the place.
Paul is retiring when this school year ends. He was a principal at another school, and has been at LaGrange Elementary for 21 years. He’s got a great announcer voice, and is interested in radio or v-over. He’s also a really good photographer (and has even sold some photos). Told him I’d be happy to help guide him, and we talked about a few things he could do.
He asked, as many do, how I memorize whole stories. He’s memorized a few poems (one 3 pages long). He was also fuzzy about the exact schedule for the read-in, so I snagged the schedule I’d printed (and kept handy) and walked it through orally for him.
He drove me to the Hampton Inn and helped me get my stuff inside. There weren’t any real plans for how I was to get to and from the school tonight, so Paul and I talked over the schedule and I figured out how much time I’d need to make sure I could check out the school, eat, prep, etc.
I checked in for free (Tara, the teacher who found me and was my main liaison) knows the hotel manager, Ruth). Paul left, and I figured out tomorrow’s schedule, so I could tell whoever is driving me to the airport what time to pick me up tomorrow. Realized I don’t have time to rest, as I was hoping to. Even a 20 min. nap would have been nice, but I had good energy, so no problem.
Sorted my things and changed as I ate a few energy bars. Did my hair and makeup. Went downstairs a minute before Paul arrived to pick me up at 5:15. Took us all of 5 minutes to drive to the school.
Paul showed me the Teacher’s Lounge, where I put my bag and coat. The teachers and parent volunteers were eating pizza. Tara (the woman who hired me and coordinated my travel) chatted a bit with me. She showed me the gym, just around the corner, where I’d be performing. I asked how many kids would be in the audience and she told me 50. We figured out where my “stage” would be and where the kids would sit.
Paul came in after she left, holding a wireless microphone but it wasn’t hands-free. Crud. I figured I’d try the show without the mic. Later, Paul realized he could lower a plastic curtain so half the gym was blocked off (which helped with the sound situation).
Went back to the teacher’s lounge, and met my driver for tomorrow, Kari. Wrote her name, cell, email. Didn’t have my flight # with me. Told her I’d call when I got back to my room after the Read In and give it to her, so she could make sure my flight was on time before leaving tomorrow morning.
She because Madison is such a small airport, just a few inches of snow fall can cause hours of delay - and it’s supposed to snow before my flight tomorrow. She said more snow is supposed to fall in Chicago. Will pack for delay.
In the cafeteria, set my water on a table (decorated with yellow plastic “table cloth,” napkins folded into triangles, and a plastic knife and fork on top of each napkin). Pretty fancy for a school meal! Watched the cooks mixing green food coloring in scrambled eggs. They weren’t ready to serve anyone. Discovered my water was gone, so I went back to the Teacher’s Lounge for another bottle.
Met various teachers. Some of the kids and adults wore fun vests, hats, shirts.
Finally they were serving food. The potatoes were ok, but the green scrambled “eggs” were pretty grim. Needed the fuel before my performance, so ate them anyway. The ham stayed pink. Engaged the kids around me in conversation. They were polite, but had no idea who I was.
Back to Teacher’s Lounge to refresh lipstick. Rehearsed in Teacher’s Lounge until two volunteers showed up with a Clifford costume in a big bag. Moved into the private hall and continued rehearsing. So glad I did. Haven’t had time to do so all day. It really helped.
6:40 Walked in the gym and helped the kids get seated where they belonged, within the white lines on the basketball court.
6:45 Principal Paul introduced me to the 3-5th graders (and adults).
Paul told the kids I got up early, so I asked students to guess what time I got up. The winner got to wear my Dr. Seuss hat.
Green Eggs & Ham (read some background & then did the story) Perfect job (finally!!)
The Lorax - had to drink a sip of water in the middle of the story- started to cough, suddenly dry.
Boom-Chicka-Boom (got the wiggles out of the kids)
Horton Hatches the Egg
The Giving Tree
Moved my Seuss hat to different quiet kids between stories. Had to wait a few times for the older kids to quiet down. Told them I was happy to stand and wait. When I explained the more they talked, the fewer stories they’d get, they got quiet faster.
7:30 - Show over. On their way out, kids asked how I memorized the stories and wanted autographs. Paul told them I’d do autographs later.
I freshened up and guzzled some water while the older kids left and younger kids went into the gym.
Checked with Tara - everyone running behind schedule. She gave me the OK to go 10 min. later than originally planned.
Groups of little kids and parents kept arriving. Each time, we thought it was the last group, but then another would come in. Finally, all the groups were present.
7:40 K-2nd Grade - lots more adults. Fewer kids than in the older group.
Again, I moved my hat around to sit on different laps between stories. Kid with colored gloves on in his Mom’s lap. Did I see a hospital band on his wrist? When I placed the lap in the boy’s lap, his mom mouthed, “Thank you.”
Green Eggs & Ham - the kids loved it.
3 Bears rap
Ticka-Ticka… (then, at their request, taught them how to say the 33 syllable name)
Peanut Butter Friendship Song
The songs were a huge hit. The kids were really good. I only had to wait for them to quiet down at the very beginning of the show.
After the shows, Tara handed me cheese curds - mozzarella and cheddar - about two cups in each bag (bought fresh at the store). Tried them, and indeed, they squeak! Makes me laugh. They are fun. She also gave me 4 paper bookmarks from Wisconsin (identical) and Wisconsin postcards.
Paul downloaded and renamed photos, then saved them to my memory stick.
While I waited, I figured I should sign autographs. Paul printed a color copy of my poster. Tara made B&W copies on slow copy machine. I signed two in the hall (as the kids were leaving). Did autographs for older kids in two classrooms before the Read In was over. Everyone in each class wanted one. I signed them, “Happy Reading NAME - Diane”. On a few I wrote more, for some special kids (and one I misspelled the name on). 2 kids asked me to sign for siblings who were sick and couldn’t make the show.
Chatted with Paul and ate smoore mix - mini-marshmallows, choc. chips, golden graham cereal, and graham bear cookies in little ziplock bags. They had about 25 left over. I signed the 4 extra B&W posters for Paul to pass out later, plus the original color one (with an extra message, to be given to a special kid).
Paul downloaded the 100+ photos to my memory stick then drove me back to the hotel.
Called Matt, to let him know how the show went, and to warn him about potential delays due to snow in Madison and Chicago tomorrow. Ate two more bags of the smoores mix (as I did stuff), prepping and packing for tomorrow, finally stopped long enough to change into my more comfy tennis shoes, then kept going. Downloaded the photos to my laptop (backup), and, as time went by, got dizzy, but that was just from a long day and needing sleep.
Finally, got to bed around midnight, Wisconsin time. (I think they are 2 hours ahead of Seattle.) Set two alarms, unsure how tired I’d be.
Sat. - 2-26-11
The next day, ate my first hot meal (free breakfast!) and nearly cried I was so happy. (Yesterday, I mostly ate Pringles, turkey jerky, and other food I brought with me.) Finished packing up.
Got to know Kari as she drove me to the airport (then stuck around Madison until after my flight was scheduled to take off, just in case there was a delay - what an angel!)
Arrived way early for my flight. Wound up doing Sneetches in the airport for a woman from SC because it’s her favorite story. (Ever the performer.)
Had to walk the entire length of the Chicago airport to get to my gate. Lots of people flying in from Germany. On the final flight, chatted with my fellow passenger, snagged his phone number (since he’s from Dublin, in case I need to learn a Dublin accent), and told him The Giving Tree, because he’d never heard it before. He was lost in the story. Wonderful to experience.
Matt picked me up and then I collapsed for a few days. I can always go however long I need to for the performance, and then I’m totally spent, so sleep and rest for a while.