Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ballet at the Benedum




My experience with ballet began when my daughter was a fourth grade ballerina at the Sue Richard Dance Studio. For the past three years, we have shared our love for dance by attending an annual ballet at The Benedum Theater in Pittsburgh.

My first professional ballet was La Bayadere, The Temple Dancer. Next came Le Corsaire, The Pirate. This year on February 11th, we saw Alice In Wonderland, the White Rabbit following girl, who enters a world of magic and mayhem.

While attending La Bayadere, I would not have been able to define "arabesque" or "port de bras", but
my heart knew something special was happening when I witnessed the visually stunning and rhythmic tapping of the toe shoes in the scene called "The Kingdom of the Shades." I was
mesmerized by the stability and precision of the dancers. It was only recently that I learned that Mikhail Baryshnikov considered this ballet to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest classical works in the history of ballet. It helps to read the synopsis of each ballet before seeing the performance. However, in The Kingdom of the Shades scene, one does not have to know that the hero Solor smoked opium to blur the painful edge of the loss of his murdered love. Or know that she, along with the other temple dancers, is coming to him in a vision as she descends from the heights of the Himalayas to the depths of his sorrow. All one has to do is see and listen with one's heart. To this day, three years later, I can still visualize those beautiful, athletic ballerinas descending their mountain.

Le Corsaire had a different, international dance flavor. The opening scene takes place in a bazaar populated with Turks, Greeks and Armenians. This ballet followed the love affair of Medora, the ward of an unscrupulous bazaar owner and Conrad, the pirate. It involved kidnappings and re-kidnappings and a third kidnapping, all in the name of love. It contains an enchanting Pas de Deux. This time I was able to guess the meaning of a Pas de Deux. What I did not realize at the time was that this was among classical ballet's most famous and performed excerpts. I'm so grateful that I have access to unlimited instant replays as I close my eyes and hear the musical memories and see the beauty of dance in my mind. It was fun to learn that humor in the plot and audible laughter in the audience is permissible and appreciated. This ballet had it all, drama, love, humor and most of all, such talented dancers.

For our third ballet, Alice in Wonderland, the costumes, set designs, choreography, and cast of characters became "curiouser and curiouser." Sort of like Tchaikovsky collaborated with Lewis Carroll producing classical nut cases. But, oh what fun it was to see.

I was smiling as broadly as The Cheshire Cat as I was danced into the fantasy world of furniture on steroids, growing and shrinking to change our perspective of Alice's size. I marveled at the dancing doors, and wondered how that was engineered. My favorite scene was the Tea Party. A floating teapot the size of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon, poured out a "chunk" of tea causing the audience to erupt in laughter.

I'm hoping no animals were harmed in the making of this zany ballet. Silly me, I was confused at first thinking the pipe smoking caterpillar entering on a huge mushroom was actually the Mock Turtle. The smoke in my head cleared, and I was soon able to correctly identify the Frog Footman, Fish Footman, Mad Hatter, 4 lobsters, monkey, crab and Gryphon, the lion/eagle creature.

The plot thickened as we encountered The Garden of Living Flowers, the aforementioned animals swimming in a pool of tears, the Queen's Croquet Match, a baby tossed around like a pizza in the making and The Queen of Hearts involved in a trial based on some stolen tarts.

So in conclusion, some ballet trivia. Little girls often come to ballets dressed as their favorite character. Recently, I saw many adorable Alices. Big girls, read my daughter, came dressed in an adorable pink tulle knee length skirt and killer heels. Audiences are respectful and appreciative. Our seats in all three ballets have been spectacular. Having a live orchestra adds another dimension to the whole experience. There seems to be a thread of smoke weaving among the ballets, whether it's opium induced stupors or kidnapping enabled by drugs or who knows what that pipe smoking caterpillar/turtle stuffed into his pipe.

And to those readers who claim not to enjoy ballet, Lewis Carroll and I both say, "Off with their heads!"

See you next year at Swan Lake.







Sandra Warholic Seeley is the creator and author of Kanela's Korner and The Sandra Seeley Column. She is a lifelong educator whose teaching experience ranges from suburban Bethel Park, PA to Hawaii to urban Pittsburgh Public's Homewood, Hill District and Squirrel Hill communities. She has taught in every grade level from Kindergarten through Grade 5. She has a Master's Degree in Education from The University of Pittsburgh with a minor in English. Her passion has always been the teaching of Communications: Reading and Writer's Workshop. She is now a freelance writer. To contact the author, click the following link.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Kris Kristofferson Revisited



Aged To Perfection


Kris Kristofferson has performed for me via 8 track tape, cassette tape, CD and live at The Palace Theatre, Greensburg, PA. I’ve listened to his music from the 1970’s to January 27, 2017 and beyond, where a full house joined me in a music appreciation evening of raw Kris. The intimate feel of this Palace jewel suggested a gathering of friends in my living room, singing along with our talented, guitar playing friend.

The lights dimmed, Kris, sans introduction, walked to center stage alone, plugged in his guitar, adjusted his neck harmonica and began the first of many fan favorites. For the next two hours, to paraphrase the lyrics in a Billy Joel song," Kris sang and played me a memory." I was transported back to a time of polyester leisure suits and bell bottom pants, platform shoes and lava lamps, youth and marriage, Jaws and a Bahama honeymoon, more future ahead of me than behind.




Kris wore his jeans and age with equal comfort. The Silver-Tongued Devil was able to laugh in the face of infirmity as a harmonica dropped to the floor and he joked about the pains involved in picking it up. I would venture to say that 95% of his audience was able to also feel his pain in their own 70 or 80 year old bodies. Silver hair, silver facial hair, and Silver Sneaker eligible, but vintage Kris Helped Me Make It Through the Night with style and grace. He made no excuses for an aging voice, he made a few self-deprecating comments about his less than virtuoso guitar playing skills and he delivered beyond our expectations. His voice often growled with emotion, perhaps infused with glimpses of mortality.

My favorite son-in-law, who represented half of the millennial generation present, informed me that Kris was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. His memory loss apparently was due to Lyme disease. I admired Kris even more when I did additional research on his background. I learned that he was a literature major in college, Rhodes scholar, Army Captain, helicopter pilot and struggling musician for many years.

My favorite daughter, who represented the other half of the millennial generation present, came to the show not expecting to like it. It wasn't long before she admitted that she was enjoying it. We laughed about the way Kris ended most songs with either a premature "thank you" or an "I'm done" comment. She said she appreciated his comments because it was hard to tell when one song ended and another began. I told her I had an advantage because I knew every song, word for word.

Standing ovations throughout the concert and enthusiastic cheering as songs began as well as a few shouted requests ( admonished by a succinct "Not yet" from Kris ) added technicolor moments to a show that did not need costume changes, back-up singers, a band, elaborate sets or pyrotechnics to dazzle the audience.

All too soon, the evening came to an encore as satisfying as an after dinner kahlua and cream, the lights came up and people didn't need a mood ring to know what they were feeling. My own mood was nostalgic. Kris' limo was waiting for him outside the theater. I wondered if Kris' immediate destination was Pittsburgh International followed by a flight to his home on Maui. I said a silent prayer of gratitude for music in general and a plea to Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends.

I'm done. Thank you.







Sandra Warholic Seeley is the creator and author of Kanela's Korner and The Sandra Seeley Column. She is a lifelong educator whose teaching experience ranges from suburban Bethel Park, PA to Hawaii to urban Pittsburgh Public's Homewood, Hill District and Squirrel Hill communities. She has taught in every grade level from Kindergarten through Grade 5. She has a Master's Degree in Education from The University of Pittsburgh with a minor in English. Her passion has always been the teaching of Communications: Reading and Writer's Workshop. She is now a freelance writer. To contact the author, click the following link.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Eulogy For Wolfgang


Wolfgang, we didn't have enough time with you.









January 19, 2017 was the worst day of our lives. Late morning we called the vet, who would make a house call at 7:00 PM. We sat on death row with you all day counting down the hours. You made many trips outside just to feel the grass, see the sky and smell your favorite scents. You said your good-byes to Debbie, your favorite mail carrier, who always left treats in the mailbox for you. We pulled out all your toys one by one, and tried to engage you in play. We know eating was difficult for you, but you still managed to eat some of your favorite Frosty Paws ice cream and apple slices. If I have a choice, my last meal will be ice cream also.

We hugged and kissed you as many times as you and time would allow. How can this be the last time we will feel your heart beating in rhythm with ours? How can we do what needs to be done? How can we not?

Wolfgang, we tried to be as courageous as you. For seven months you battled the oral melanoma that spread to your lungs, and for the last two days of your life made it painful for you to lie down. So painful that you were literally on your feet for eighteen hours each day, your legs shaking in protest. The radiation did not help. The chemotherapy did not help. We knew it was time to help end your suffering. You didn't deserve this horrible disease.

I prayed to God, St. Francis, St. Michael, St. Jude and other saints for a miraculous cure. Perhaps the miracle is that you will be someday welcoming us home once again. Jessica said you were in Heaven playing with your purple ball. So that's where you hid that ball! We've been searching for that little ball for almost ten years.

You brought so much laughter and love into our lives. we reminisce daily about your loyalty, protection, playfulness, intelligence, goodness and love.

The Washington Area Humane Society where we found each other, told us you were an 8 week old black Lab mix. The DNA test that we had done last year, told us you were a Boxer, Chow Chow, Boston Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog mix, with no Lab in sight. You told us you were a Wolfgang.

As Dr. Mary Ann met you for the first time close to 7 PM, you announced her arrival (ever vigilant), raised your hackles until you could determine if she was friend or foe, then wagged your tail in greeting and played with her on the living room floor.

We circled you with our love, and held you in our arms. As the sedative took effect, you were finally able to lie down and rest. And then you were at peace. It brings us some comfort knowing you died in the very same spot that your beloved Grandma Rose died 7 months earlier. She was definitely waiting for you with a treat on the other side of that Rainbow Bridge.

Ed suggested we keep your ashes until one of us is called home, and then bury them in the casket with one of us. I loved that idea, but then told him, "You know I want Wolfgang with me!" He smiled and I think he agreed.

Since you've been gone Wolfgang, on two different occasions, I thought I heard the tags on your collar jingling. I wasn't asleep or dreaming at the time. I thought it was my imagination, but Ed said maybe it wasn't. I'd like to think your spirit is still here with us, ever vigilant.

Thank you Wolfgang for loving us so unconditionally. We loved you just as much in return. You'll always be our good boy.







Sandra Warholic Seeley is the creator and author of Kanela's Korner and The Sandra Seeley Column. She is a lifelong educator whose teaching experience ranges from suburban Bethel Park, PA to Hawaii to urban Pittsburgh Public's Homewood, Hill District and Squirrel Hill communities. She has taught in every grade level from Kindergarten through Grade 5. She has a Master's Degree in Education from The University of Pittsburgh with a minor in English. Her passion has always been the teaching of Communications: Reading and Writer's Workshop. She is now a freelance writer. To contact the author, click the following link.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Circle of Life


The sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

"From the day we arrived on this planet, The Circle of Life is moving us all." And yesterday our family circle widened, with many of us witnessing the surprise proposal as Brandon, on bended knee, asked for Jessica's hand in marriage with a sapphire and diamond ring. It was an emotional day filled with love, tears of joy and laughter.

Two families are now in the early stages of blending. We get to share treasured stories with fresh ears to hear. Our family gains a new son, grandson, brother, cousin, etc. Our daughter, Jessica, gains a second family of loving relatives.

Exciting plans will soon begin while "visions of sugarplums dance in our heads."
Wedding date, church, hall, gown, music, flowers, parties, colors, food, guest lists, invitations, oh my!

I've already started a mental list: lose more weight, learn to dance, earn more money and shop for my dress. However, my number one priority as the MOB is to enjoy the journey with my daughter and soon to be son-in-law as we march ever closer to that joyful processional down the aisle into happily ever after.

We found our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of Life


Sandra Warholic Seeley is the creator and author of Kanela's Korner and The Sandra Seeley Column. She is a lifelong educator whose teaching experience ranges from suburban Bethel Park, PA to Hawaii to urban Pittsburgh Public's Homewood, Hill District and Squirrel Hill communities. She has taught in every grade level from Kindergarten through Grade 5. She has a Master's Degree in Education from The University of Pittsburgh with a minor in English. Her passion has always been the teaching of Communications: Reading and Writer's Workshop. She is now a freelance writer. To contact the author, click the following link.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pittsburgh By Duck



Ducky Birthday To You!


Today is Mom's 98th birthday which we celebrated on Saturday by taking her on the Just Ducky tour of Pittsburgh. When asked if this was something she wanted to do, she replied, "I'm game!" So here she is wearing her Cocoon sunglasses, ready to roll (literally) at Station Square.

Our Amphibious Vehicle


Rose is a former Monessen Greyhound who fell in love with a Donora Dragon. She met her Andy when she and a girlfriend stole several pieces of chocolate covered cherries from an unopened box in his unlocked car that just happened to be parked near her house. The girls were sitting outside on her porch when the cherries called to them. Andy returned to his car, and asked them if they saw the thieves. They denied any knowledge of this heinous crime, but struck up a conversation that lasted for more than 57 years. It was only after several years of marriage that Rose admitted to being the Cherry Thief. Every Valentine's Day after that, Andy bought his sweetheart a box of her favorite candy.

Rose did not pursue this life of crime, but went on to become a national award winning quilter and seamstress. She won the top prize in Needlecraft magazine's Christmas 1988 contest with her poinsettia quilt.


 She became fascinated with Tiger Woods even though she knows nothing about golf. Early in his career, she started clipping newspaper articles about him, and saving them in page protectors placed in binders. To this day, we are trying to figure out a way to send these scrapbooks to him. Any suggestions? We want to be certain he gets them, and not a PR person or agent.

 She became Supermom to five children. Here is a "duck's eye view" of her superpowers:

Faster than a speeding baseball


More powerful than a Steel Curtain



Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound



A fountain of love, beauty and grace


Supermom did not get the opportunity to fulfill her youthful ambition to become a hairstylist, but instead, assumed the disguise of Rose Warholic, mild-mannered housewife in a great metropolis.

Rose would like to thank Miss Maggie, the captain of our Duck, who performed admirably on land and sea. She would like to thank James, our tour guide, who devoted a lot of personal time to our group, and kept telling her how awesome she was. She would like to thank the Just Ducky agent who wanted to take her dancing Saturday night. (You should have gone out with him, Mom!) She would like to thank all twenty-nine passengers who sang Ducky Birthday To You, and congratulated her as they disembarked. And of course, she would like to thank her two daughters and their husbands, her granddaughter and her boyfriend, and her two newest grandchildren from Latvia (who won the Ducky prize for travelling the greatest distance to be with their Babushka) for joining her on this adventure.

 She sends a hearty QUACK,QUACK,QUACK to thank her three sons in California, their wives, and all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren who could not be with her in person, but would have if they could have.

And Mom, all of us would like to thank you for all that you have done for us for the past 98 years. How does one even begin to repay the huge debt we owe you? The answer is:  We can't. All we can do is wish you the happiest of birthdays and many more. We love you more than words could ever express. We are also planning your 99th and 100th birthday celebrations. I'm thinking one might include a helicopter ride over your metropolis and another may include a visit with Tiger Woods! We consider him a fourth brother anyway. Or perhaps a trip to Switzerland, your dream vacation. I can already hear you saying, "I'm game!"







Sandra Warholic Seeley is the creator and author of Kanela's Korner and The Sandra Seeley Column. She is a lifelong educator whose teaching experience ranges from suburban Bethel Park, PA to Hawaii to urban Pittsburgh Public's Homewood, Hill District and Squirrel Hill communities. She has taught in every grade level from Kindergarten through Grade 5. She has a Master's Degree in Education from The University of Pittsburgh with a minor in English. Her passion has always been the teaching of Communications: Reading and Writer's Workshop. She is now a freelance writer. To contact the author, click the following link.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Friendly Skies



From coast to coast in 51 minutes


I would like to share a memory as vivid as the day it happened over 45 years ago.

This particular recollection took place in the early 1970's. I was flying solo from Pittsburgh to Tampa, Florida as a young, single female. Some people may have considered me fairly attractive. Also, since this is my story, I can remember (invent) my physical description! But, I believe the attractiveness factor played a role in this story. And this description is stored in my ROM, so it's not easily altered!

But, I digress. As often happens in air travel, my expected landing in Tampa did not occur on the expected date. Due to heavy fog, the plane was diverted to Jacksonville for the night. The hotel accommodations were luxurious and complimentary.

Breakfast the next morning was problematic. I stood in the entrance to the hotel restaurant, and realized, with all the passengers trying to eat at the same time, there were no empty tables. And no time to wait, since the plane was leaving, with or without me, in one hour.

However, I noticed the pilots' table had an empty seat. At the same time, the pilots noticed me, and invited me to join them. Breakfast turned into a Getting Acquainted Party with lots of laughter. Not wanting the party to end, the captain invited me to join them in the cockpit for the 51 minute flight from Jacksonville to Tampa. What an invitation!

Striding along with the pilots, carrying only my small overnight suitcase, they told me to act like a guest stewardess, as we walked right past the security checkpoint. Acting very stewardessly, I was right behind the pilot and co-pilot as we boarded the plane. They escorted me to my seat in the cockpit directly behind the pilot, but on a raised platform. Without a doubt, this was the best seat in the house! I found out years later that as a general rule, paying passengers are not permitted to fly in jump seats. Hence the "act like a guest flight attendant" command.

I was on visual overload as I noted the crazy amount of instrument panels, controls, etc. Then in auditory wonder as I listened to the pre-flight checklist confirmations between the pilots and tower through my headset. To experience the take-off anxiety while viewing it through a window the size of the Florida Panhandle (roughly 200 miles long and 50 to 100 miles wide) was mind-blowing. At cruising altitude, the view was amazing. I didn't want it to end.

Once the airplane was on autopilot, the human operators were able to focus on the broader aspects of aviation such as resuming the Get Acquainted Party. Soft drinks and snacks were plentiful. Also, I witnessed a practical joke played on one of my new funny friends. This involved an orange falling on the captain's head when he opened an overhead compartment. I did wonder if they were following best practices while flying a monster jet.

But all too soon, it was time to fasten my seat belt for a 3D, technicolor landing. Travelling at roughly 158 nautical miles per hour goes by before you know it. Perhaps my breakfast companions didn't exactly follow protocol by inviting me to share their ride, but I thank them for the extraordinary Take Your "Stewardess" to Work Day!






Sandra Warholic Seeley is the creator and author of Kanela's Korner and The Sandra Seeley Column. She is a lifelong educator whose teaching experience ranges from suburban Bethel Park, PA to Hawaii to urban Pittsburgh Public's Homewood, Hill District and Squirrel Hill communities. She has taught in every grade level from Kindergarten through Grade 5. She has a Master's Degree in Education from The University of Pittsburgh with a minor in English. Her passion has always been the teaching of Communications: Reading and Writer's Workshop. She is now a freelance writer. To contact the author, click the following link.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Dear Dad





I'm a steelworker's daughter, the first of the baby-boomer generation, raised on my Dad's WWII Navy stories, who misses him more every year. He sailed on his final voyage twenty years ago, today. There are countless things I would like him to know, so Dad, this one's for you:

Dear Dad,

You joined the Navy because of the attack on Pearl Harbor. You would be devastated to know about the attack on 9/11/2001, in the heart of New York City and all the senseless attacks in our schools, churches, movie theaters, marathons, transportation systems, police forces and on random individuals. How fervently you would have prayed your daily Rosary for peace.

Do you know that every man, woman and child now carries a cell phone, including me? They are no longer the size and weight of gold bars (roughly 27 pounds), but fit easily in pockets and purses. I can just see you shaking your head at technology. I remember how I used to love watching you develop pictures in your darkroom. Yes, we can take instant digital photos on our cell phones, but I miss the charm and intimacy of our darkroom conversations.

Do you know that you now have twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren? You also have three granddogs that live locally. One even lives in your house! They all would have admired and loved you. I wish you could tell me if dogs really do go to Heaven. I like to picture you playing with Cindy, our dachshund, that you bought for us so long ago.

Do you know about Facebook? I wonder if you would be posting your opinions, although I have my doubts. I remember how much you used to love writing letters to everyone from the President to politicians to friends and relatives. I still have the copies you made and answers received. When you left us in 1995, Bill Clinton was the POTUS. Since then, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have led our country. We don't know who the next leader will be, but I can imagine the blistering letters you would have written to Donald Trump. (Trust me, he wouldn't care.) I remember that "blistering" was one of your favorite words.

Do you know there is now a 47" flat screen TV in your living room? I can still remember my excitement when you brought home our first black &white television in the 1950's. Do you know that PBS still shows re-runs of some of your favorite programs like The Lawrence Welk Show?

Do you know of all the scandals in sports since Pete Rose was accused of betting on his own baseball team? I hope you and your boyhood friend, Stan Musial, are reminiscing about The Good Old Days. I loved hearing how you and Stan grew up and played together in Donora, PA, the Home of Champions. Did you really teach Stan everything he knew about baseball? I'll never forget how you took me to see Stan play his last game in Pittsburgh before he retired. How he spotted you in the stands and came over to talk with us. I still have the Get Well cards he sent you when you became so ill. Do you know that they named a bridge for him in Donora? I think they should name one for you, also. Just sayin'.

Do you know that the Civic Arena and Three Rivers Stadium no longer exist? I'll never forget how you took me to see Robert Goulet and Nat King Cole perform at the Civic Arena. Those nights became even more magical when the roof opened to let the real stars shine down on us. Dad, do you know how "Unforgettable" you are?

Do you know how bravely your wife and our Mother has struggled to survive without you? Your Rose literally experienced a Trial by Fire when lightning struck the house you built, causing major fire and water damage. She lived in our neighbor's house for a whole year while they were in Florida, and supervised the restoration process. As you know, she'll be 98 years old on September 21st. Old age is demanding a steep toll of her. We'll celebrate her birthday and also what would have been your 76th wedding anniversary. Happy Anniversary, Dad!

Do you know how much we all love and miss you? We have faith that one day we will all be together again. To paraphrase the poem, The Ship, by Bishop Charles Henry Brent: You are not gone; only gone from our sight.






Sandra Warholic Seeley is the creator and author of Kanela's Korner and The Sandra Seeley Column. She is a lifelong educator whose teaching experience ranges from suburban Bethel Park, PA to Hawaii to urban Pittsburgh Public's Homewood, Hill District and Squirrel Hill communities. She has taught in every grade level from Kindergarten through Grade 5. She has a Master's Degree in Education from The University of Pittsburgh with a minor in English. Her passion has always been the teaching of Communications: Reading and Writer's Workshop. She is now a freelance writer. To contact the author, click the following link.

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF