The Human Pedigree: Going Home, Moving On

FamilyOctGathering2014

Everyone in my family is an accomplished photographer–but we still couldn’t figure out the “timer” to get us all in the frame!

I wrote this post in October 2014. Today, my parents are on the verge of celebrating their 94th birthdays. After more than a year away from them, due to the pandemic, I feel nostalgic for the last time my siblings and I gathered with them. Stay tuned for an update when I finally get to visit with them again!

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Last week, I drove to the airport 90 minutes away, waited during a 40-minute plane delay, sat on the plane for 2+ hours, boarded a bus for another 3 hour ride and discovered I’d left my laptop behind during the routine airport security check at DFW. I hate travel. But I’d do it all over again, and gladly.

It was my parent’s 60th Anniversary celebration. My two brothers and their wives and I rented a house in Michigan, and we gathered together for a rare but blissful reunion with great food, fine beverages, late night laugh-fests, shared memories, and bitter-sweet farewells.

We grew up in Northern Indiana where my parents still live. My twin brother (and nope, we’re NOT identical, LOL!) and his family live in Ohio where he’s a brilliant speech writer and PR pro, while our younger brother, a professional photographer, lives in far northern Michigan. My SILs are accomplished professional women, too, and my niece and nephews make us all proud. But how did my “little brother” become a grandpa, twice over? Where did the time go?

I live the farthest away in Texas, and traveling that far plus coordinating all of our busy schedules proves the greatest challenge. In fact, my husband wasn’t able to come due to a number of scheduling conflicts with work–and caring for the fur-kids. Sometimes I feel guilty that we moved so far away…

PEDIGREES & GENEALOGY

When together, I’m reminded of what a friend calls our “charmed childhood.” Our home was full of books, art and music–even today Mom and Dad’s house looks like a cross between an art gallery and a library, with musical instruments thrown in. Memories of being read to–story time was important when we were kids–and then arguing which one got to practice on the newer upstairs piano rather than the old-timey one in the basement. And later, when cello, violin, trumpet, voice lessons, track and wrestling, sewing lessons and play practice were added. How did my folks find the time, with their teaching schedules, to give us such wonderful gifts of creativity to explore?

Pets, too, of course–Shelties now gone for years that taught me about dog training and patience, and still prompt tears when stories are fondly shared. My Dad, a long retired elementary music teacher, has become a recognized pastel artist, and one of Mom’s most cherished pictures is the portrait of all the Shelties together: Pickles, Mac, Chad and Skye.

Living on the river, I could sneak away in the canoe to perch in my “reading tree” out of sight for lazy summertime hours. Baby bunnies rescued, turtles and snakes caught and released, river snails the size of your fist–and college fees times three. I am in awe, and a bit weepy thinking back.

We spent time this past weekend looking through a family genealogy, marveling at our ancestors, and how far they’d traveled to meet their future spouses and raise families. And I learned that my Mom, born and raised in Kentucky, had also taken a chance and left her family for a teaching job in Indiana more than 60 years ago–and there she met Dad.

GOOD GENES & LUCK

With cats and dogs, we have the luxury of reviewing pedigrees and choosing ideal pet parent matches–but even then, anything can happen. Humans are more in line with the “lovable mutts” that just happen to get together. What results can be good, bad, or hopefully a happy accident.

I am me because of my parents, and my brothers. How lucky that my ancestors took a chance on coming to a new country, and that my Mom left her family during an era when most young women stayed home and married a neighbor. They still love life, my parents, and it shows in all they do–and I pray they’ll continue to stay healthy for another decade and beyond. Neither looks or acts their age and if I’m sometimes silly or act quirky well–it’s THEIR gene pool! And I’m proud and lucky to be a part of it.

Friends sometimes share with me their sorrow, anger, or indifference that they’ve lost touch or are not close with their families. That makes me sad–and also makes me feel even more lucky to have the parents and brothers that I have.

I see myself in them, in how I was raised, and the decisions I made to arrive at this place in my life. I, too, left home. But I took home with me. It’s who I am. All the things I love most in life–pets, music, art, puns and laughter, theater and bling, books and stories, love and honesty–all comes from them. With a pedigree like that, I am indeed blessed.

Oh, I did get my laptop back. Just lucky, I guess!

When was the last time you had a family reunion? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

STRAYS CAST ANNOUNCED! RESERVE SEATS NOW!

Strays Cast 001The cast of STRAYS has been rehearsing since late September, preparing for the November 6, 7, 8 performances at 7:00 pm at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman Texas.

STRAYS is an original show by Amy Shojai and Frank Steele that explores furry foibles from the PETS’ point of view. “All new scripts are written in (forgive us) kitty litter. Working with a cast helped us tighten scenes and refine songs for the best actor/audience performance experience possible,” say Shojai and Steele. “We’re proud to premier the show with this fantastic cast, courtesy of Theatricks and the Honey McGee Playhouse.”

All actors remain onstage and each portrays several feature roles—including human owners—in this hilarious and often moving “drama-dy” that seeks to edu-tain audiences about normal pet behavior that too often gets pets kicked out of the house. In addition, Petco, Natural Balance pet food, and others have donated pet-centric gift baskets (including some waived pet adoption fees to qualified owners) to raise funds for the local Animal Refuge Foundation and Red River SPCA.

“Our pet loving cast ranges in age from kindergarten to mature adults, including several parent/child castings,” say the playwrights. “Many are experienced performers you know from Theatricks and Finley productions, while others are first-time actors.”

The cast of 30 includes Denison performer Avery Hall, and Van Alstyne performers Kate Carson, Charlotte Thomas and Sofia Westmoreland. Sherman performers are Sophia Allen, Jim Barnes, Marty Burkart, Kaitlyn Casmedes, Christina and Jesse Childress, Lew Cohn, Roxy Farrel and her mother Katie Wiley, Kevin Gautier, Ava Gibson, Carolina Guerra and her children Abraham, Eliana and Sofia, Ken Kozak and his daughter MacKenzie, Theresa Littlefield, Brenna Michaelsen, Steven Milward, John and Susan McGinn and their daughter Sarah, Charity Riley and daughter Brynn, and Liam Troncalli.

Strays-PerformPoster copySTRAYS is co-directed by Steele and Shojai, with assistance from rehearsal pianist Dr. John McGinn and choreographer Kaitlyn Casmedes. In addition, Steven Milward is technical adviser, with Michael Gardner running lights. Brenna Michaelsen and Tobias Scheibmeir share the duties of stage manager.

The show is suitable for all ages, and children will especially enjoy the funny songs—just remember that the actors are pretending to be cats and dogs doing what often “hisses” owners off, like scratching, barking, jumping or missing the litter box. Parents of very young or sensitive children should be aware the show briefly addresses the reality of what happens to unwanted pets. “Rest assured, there IS a happy ending!”

The Honey McGee Playhouse seats slightly over 100, and the three performances November 6, 7, 8 are expected to sell out quickly. Tickets are $10 each, and you can purchase tickets at the door or reserve seats online at the Theatricks website by clicking on the STRAYS link on the night you wish to attend.

CLICK HERE FOR THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 7:00 PM PERFORMANCE

Learn about Theatricks productions here.

CLICK HERE FOR SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 7:00 PM PERFORMANCE

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Audition for STRAYS, Channel Your Inner Pet!

Strays Logo2-LoRezCome channel your inner cat and dog and audition for STRAYS, THE MUSICAL on Tuesday and Wednesday, 6:00-9:00 pm on September 23-24 (callbacks September 25) at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman Texas.

STRAYS explores furry foibles from the PETS’ point of view. The actors give voice to a variety of cat and dog characters in this hilarious–and often moving–musical review “drama-dy” that seeks to edu-tain audiences about normal pet behavior while honoring the bond we share with them.

STRAYS seeks up to 25 actors, singers and dancers, from kids to adults. Families (parents and kids) are encouraged to audition together. Rehearsals are at the Honey McGee, Sunday through Thursday evenings beginning September 28 with performance three nights only November 6, 7, 8 at the Honey McGee. The show will be rehearsed in individual scenes, so actors won’t be needed at every rehearsal. Families will be scheduled at the same time frame.

MagicStraysHOW TO AUDITION

No experience is necessary. Auditions consist of filling out a form, singing a short selection of your choice (or simple music will be provided), reading scenes from the script, and demonstrating your best cat and/or dog character. A pianist will be available for you to bring sheet music, or bring your own CD for your song and/or dance audition. Dancers may be asked to learn a short routine.

There are up to 20 individual speaking/singing parts; you may be cast to play more than one role or given additional lines and/or solo verses in company songs. STRAYS includes music styles from pop rock to blues, calypso, gospel and musical theater, and even rap, country-western, jazz, and Celtic. The show will be performed with full orchestration via CD recording.

KarmaStrays4AVAILABLE ROLES!

Featured roles for men include BOY PUPPY (age 13-20), CHOW HOUND (adult bass/baritone), OLD DOG (adult tenor), LUCKY CAT (adult, talk-singer), DOG RAPPER (any age), and HUMAN-OWNER (adult).

Featured roles for women include GIRL KITTEN (soprano/actor age 13-20), QUEEN CAT (soprano/adult), OLD CAT (non-singing, mature), CAT RAPPER (any age), PETS TRIO (any age, close harmony), DANCE CAT (solo-modern/ballet), and HUMAN-OWNER (adult).

Several featured roles may be played by either males or females of any age, and include BLUESY DOG, BEGGING DOG, WISH CAT, and GOSPEL CAT (all mid-range solos), EGO DOG (non-singing), and DANCE PETS (any age).

SecretGardenSet

THE SECRET GARDEN show just closed at the Honey McGee Playhouse, and this gorgeous set will be re-purposed and used for STRAYS.

STRAYS will be co-directed by Frank Steele and Amy Shojai, with assistance from rehearsal pianist Dr. John McGinn and choreographer Kaitlyn Casmedes. In addition, Steven Milward is technical adviser. Anyone interested in technical/crew positions is encouraged to attend.

For further information contact Amy Shojai, (amy@shojai.com, 903-868-1022). You can also fill out an audition form online at the Theatricks website.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

FREE WORKSHOP FOR #PETS CENTRIC MUSICAL

KarmaStrays4Those who regularly read this blog know that I not only write about pets, but also give talks about pet behavior. You may be surprised to learn that sometimes I write music about pet behavior, too and even SING about cats and dogs. (Magical-Dawg howls, Seren-Kitty does her lion cough and Karma yawns…everyone’s a critic!) Now you have a chance to sing along!

I’m proud to partner with local actor/writer/musician Frank Steele to co-write STRAYS, THE MUSICAL. Next Saturday, September 13 from 10-noon at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman, we’ll present a free workshop about the show. The workshop is designed to help pet loving performers prepare to audition for STRAYS on September 23, 24, 25. Those who attend may learn a thing or two about cat and dog behavior, too!

I’ve written lots of pet-centric schtuff, and Frank and I have written other scripts and performed on stage a great deal. But STRAYS combines all our loves—writing, music, acting and pets. Now we want to share STRAYS with area actors and audiences.

Love theater? Love pets? You’ll fall in love with STRAYS!

MagicStraysWe’re looking for up to 20 performers and production folks to bring STRAYS to life. A few human characters appear in the show but most actors portray cats or dogs—but without any special makeup or costumes. That’s right! You get to create your own character using your skill as a performer—are you a Great Dane? Chihuahua or Siamese? Mutt or tabby? We’d love to cast families, too—with the kids playing kittens/puppies and parents as the adult pets.

During the workshop, you’ll practice channeling your inner pet. Feel free to bring a dog or cat toy to help get into character. Participants will learn one of the songs from the show and practice pet-centric moves. Are you a rapper or beat box expert? Come show your skills! Dogs and cats move and act in very specific ways that communicate to each other (and to clueless humans!). Shake your puppy tail or display kitty ballet moves to evoke the pet’s mood. During the workshop you’ll also practice reading funny or poignant scenes from the script.

Two featured parts call for 14-year old actor/singers to play the parts of Girl Kitten and Boy Puppy. But all other parts have no age or type limitations and performers aged 9 to 99 are welcome. STRAYS includes solos, ensembles, rap, featured dancers, non-singing actor roles, and fun company numbers in styles ranging from pop rock to blues, calypso, gospel, jazz, and Celtic. If you’re like me, you often “speak” for your pets and now’s your chance to bring that cat or dog character to the stage.

We look forward to working with Supporting Cast members from SCP-Theatricks. We also seek technical assistance with lighting, sound, projection, choreography, stage managing and more.

Dr. John McGinn will assist us as rehearsal pianist, and the show will be performed with a CD of full orchestration on November 6, 7, 8, 2014. We hope STRAYS will benefit animal welfare organizations in their fund raising efforts, as well as entertain pet lovers. And purr-haps bring a new audience to Sherman Community Players.

Now is your chance—come to the STRAYS workshop Saturday September 13 from 10-Noon to learn more. Please SHARE this post with cat and dog lovers and theater peeps. 🙂

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

GOT STRAYS? Celebrating Pets with Musical Info-tainment!

KarmaStraysI’ve been grinning and doing the HAPPY-DANCE for two days now, ever since Monday night the Sherman Community Players Board voted YES to allow STRAYS, THE MUSICAL be produced as a full-fledged show, November 6-7-8, 2014 at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman, Texas.

YEE-HAW!

My co-author (co-conspirator?) Frank Steele and I began this journey more than two years ago when we conceived the notion of a musical theater show from the cats and dogs point of view. For some of y’all who have read my dog-viewpoint thrillers, this probably sounds familiar. 🙂 We’re both passionate about proper pet care, and I’ve carved a career out of helping to educate pet lovers.

Strays Logo2-LoRezWe wanted STRAYS to be a hopeful and funny show that also shines a spotlight (literally!) on how cats and dogs lose their homes, and celebrate the heroes who make it possible for the lucky ones to be chosen and have forever homes. Our fondest wish is that STRAYS helps rescues, shelters and pet lovers everywhere with info-tainment that inspires, offers hope, and maybe even raises funds for furry causes.

The best way to reach the widest audience is to publish. In theater, publishers require that a script be performed before they’ll even consider it.

So as we wrote the script and score,  with the help of talented local actors, STRAYS took baby paw-steps in a preview performance of sample songs at the national 2013 Cat Writers Association Conference in Dallas. And this past March, we were granted a “staged reading” of the entire show (script/music in hand), thanks to Webster Crocker, administrative director of Sherman Community Players (SCP). He agreed to our request to mount the full show in the fall under the THEATRICKS umbrella (children’s theater program), and June 23, 2014 the SCP Board approved the proposal.

Auditions will happen sometime in September–so if you’d like to “channel your inner cat/dog” please come out! Frank and I can’t wait to work with the Supporting Cast members, the young thespians who participate in Theatricks programs. But there are parts for singers, dancers, and actors of every age and type because, after all, cats and dogs are as unique as snowflakes, too. Wouldn’t it be PAW-some to have whole families perform in the show together?

You can learn more about our STRAYS journey on the Strays Page by clicking here, see video of the CWA preview performance, and links to the Cast Recording of the 12 songs.

And I’ve created a Facebook Group Page for STRAYS Fans here, to stay up to date on auditions, songs, and more. Please join our furry throng and spread the news!

Did I mention….YEE-HAW!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!